[Tweeters] Junco of the winter

Teresa Michelsen teresa at avocetconsulting.com
Sun Dec 13 08:54:51 PST 2015

For me, it is learning more about the bird through observation, often while I’m doing other things. Can you recognize its call? Can you tell what it is just from a flit of its tail, how it moves, or where it hangs out? Which trees it prefers and what it eats? Do you know the difference between a male, female, and youngster, and whether/when you might start seeing the babies come out? Do you know when they start singing in the spring and what that sounds like, and whether they are still at your elevation by then? Where they go the rest of the year?

Knowing a lot of these behavioral details is fun because, 1) you can just be out walking and hear a sound or see a little flit and you can identify everything as you walk by, without searching through a book or needing binos, 2) you have some idea what they’re doing there, where they go the rest of the year, and when to expect them back next year – and from that can notice seasonal or annual differences that track with weather patterns, 3) if you know all your local birds this well, then when there is something unusual around you will instantly notice and pay more attention. This last one is key if your natural tendency is more as a lister. If you’ve ever been to a new country where even the common birds were new to you, you know how much harder it is to get every species on your list, because even after identifying them once, you’re constantly spending effort on the common birds because you don’t know them like a local and end up missing some of the more rare birds.

So even if you may never be the person who just thrives on seeing the familiar visitors to his yard every day, see if you can walk through your neighborhood without binoculars and casually identify every bird, basically without trying, by its sounds and behavior. That’s when you really know your birds. And then once you know those, you can work on widening your range to different kinds of habitats and areas of the state. Looking them up and ticking them off the list is just the start.

Teresa Michelsen

North Bend WA

From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Jason Hernandez
Sent: Saturday, December 12, 2015 9:52 PM
To: Tweet Ters
Subject: [Tweeters] Junco of the winter

I confess, I am not one of those birders who is interested in every bird. Some birds tend to bore me. But I know this is an error of perception on my part; that if I could learn to see them aright, the "boring" birds would have their lessons to teach, too.

I write now of our common companion of this time of year, _Junco hyemalis_ (literal translation, "Junco of the winter"). Of course I know about the geographical subspecies, and the excitement a birder in the know would feel at seeing one of these subspecies in an area properly the domain of another. But suppose you and the juncos are being homebodies -- i.e. you are staying in your own home area, and seeing only the junco subspecies typical of your own home area. What about the junco would keep you interested in looking at it after you have ascertained what it is?

Jason Hernandez


jason.hernandez74 at yahoo.com

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