Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nothing More on Kite; Black Rail; White-rumpeds, and Thoughts on Playback

The possible White-tailed Kite remains just that, with no further reports.

Vince Elia has 25 White-rumped Sandpipers with ~ 2,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Heislerville right now. Early June is a great time to find, and learn, White-rumped - they are late migrants and the Semis have thinned enough that your percentages are much higher.

A calling Black Rail was discovered late last night (which held ideal conditions for Black Rail listening, dark and calm) by Michael O'Brien and Dave La Puma in Cape May County. Given that in 1988 Paul Kerlinger and Clay Sutton detected 24+ Black Rails at 14 sites (see Records of New Jersey Birds 15 (2): 22-26), and in contrast that Michael's bird is the only one we've heard specifics about this spring, we'll keep the exact location vague for fear of possible harassment of the bird with recordings.

Speaking of recordings. . .listening to recordings of bird vocalizations is essential, in my opinion, to learning them. Whether you use CD's, BirdJam (which I love for both learning and teaching), i-Phone apps, or other products, it has never been easier to find the recordings you want, and learn from them.

Therein lies the rub. Before long every birder is going to have bird songs in their pocket, along with the strong temptation to play the recordings to attract birds. My personal high-minded notion is that using playback cheapens the experience and diminishes the skill element in birding. I'd compare it to bait-fishing, as opposed to catching a trout on a skillfully cast, hand-tied fly. Of course, this is just personal philosophy, and I do sometimes use bait. . . but very, very rarely use playback. I'd rather find, and share, birds doing what they do, uninterrupted.

Beyond the philosopical, playback carries very real conservation concerns, and enough horror stories are out there that this should be taken seriously. CMBO has developed a policy on playback, which basically says don't use playback in heavily birded areas or on species of conservation concern. We never use playback on CMBO field trips. Those interested can contact me for a copy of the full policy.

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