It’s summer, so most bird activity has slowed down, feeder birds may be opting for protein by insect, territorial ambitions are generally a distant memory, and many bird-watchers have turned to other activities rather than getting up at 5 a.m. (Yes, that would be me).
One way to stay connected with birds is through the internet.
BirdNote (birdnote.org). A two-minute show heard by millions of listeners on public radio stations, online and podcast continues to be a hit with birders. The word-and-song topics range far and wide, including the spring courtship of cedar waxwings, the dance of house sparrows, American robin babies, barn owls, Tony Angell on ravens, and how a female oriole weaves its nest. Bird-watching bloggers can provide observations close to home, or take you around the world.
Ornithology: The Science of Birds (ornithology.com/birds-in-the-news). Its lecture section provides a step beyond the typical stories. Choices include “lectures” on migration and navigation, songs and calls, and the geography of birds.
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (allaboutbirds.org). How can some birds drink saltwater? What should you feed summer bird feeder visitors? How can you tell a bird’s age from its molt patterns? This and countless more topics dot the iconic Cornell online avian landscape, the go-to site for millions of birders. Be sure to check out the Explore a Region section.
The laboratory’s mission is citizen science using volunteers who can provide information about birds that researchers could use, information that they could not gather on a large scale. More than 150 scientific papers have used Cornell Labs citizen-science data since 1997; more than 7.5 million bird observations have been reported to ebird.org each month.
Washington Birder (wabirder.com). If you usually bird in Snohomish County, and like statistics, visit this site. It has state and county checklists, Washington Big Day reports and an interesting section, Washington Birder county firsts, which lists the species and the observer. For instance, on April 29, 2016, Maria Ramberg spotted a white-winged dove. There’s also a county-by-county comparison of state species.
National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com). My favorite part of this site is the top 25 contributed photographs of the week, but National Geographic covers nature, so there are a variety of temptations.
10,000 Birds (10000birds.com). I hadn’t seen this website, but I appreciate any site that can pull off well-written blogs on bird feeder patents, puddle gulls, tough love on the beach (good images of a common tern feeding her chick) — and extinction week?
Seattle Audubon (birdweb.org). If your curiosity includes checking out specific birds in Washington, this is the site for you. Enter the name of the bird in the search box, and check out its description, life history, status, where to find them and maps. Or check out birds by taxonomic grouping. Washington’s birds belong to 18 orders, large groupings of related families and species.
Washington Ornithological Association (wos.org). Take your time with this one. Birders can share their sightings as well as read current information about the state’s best birding locations. Its 613-page “Birders Guide to Washington” is now online. Check out the guide at wabirdguide.org.
The site also is where you can find avian research and how to help as a citizen volunteer. John Marzluff, for instance, wants banding information on American crows. But he’ll take a crow carcass from the Puget Sound area; health officials may want to check them for West Nile Virus.
Or you could read a book, perhaps Miyoko Chu’s “Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds” (Walker Books). From introduction to epilogue, Chu taps into our fascination with long-distance migration, taking readers back through time as well as looking to the future. ”Songbirds” is science, plus anecdotes, plus personal observations.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.