Bird Chatter

Written by: Kim Fundingsland

Every December dedicated bird watchers conduct Christmas Bird Counts throughout the United States. Several of the counts are conducted annually in the Minot Area. The counts are part of a national effort led by the Audubon Society.
Though I have never considered myself a serious birder, I’ve been present at numerous bird counts over the years and learned a lot by observing avid birders as they listen for certain sounds and identify mannerisms or characteristics of birds.
It’s not always coloration that is used to identify birds. Sometimes, especially when the light isn’t the best, wing beats and flight patterns are keys to identification.

I’ve always been fascinated by waterfowl and raptors, birds that piqued my interest in proper identification. There’s been some special moments, such as holding a tiny sow-whet owl on a birding excursion in the Badlands.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see endangered whooping cranes several times, including nine of the rare birds on the ground near Crosby when their entire population numbered less than 40. And I’ve never forgotten seeing a peregrine falcon fold up and dive on a cottontail rabbit.

There’s been many other moments too. Sometimes it was the sincere interest in birds shown by the people I was with. The list includes a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist stationed at J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge several years ago. We were taking an airboat tour of the marshes on the refuge when we got high centered, completely stuck.

While waiting for help to arrive we had a wonderful conversation free from the noise of the airboat. He told me he was hoping to get assigned to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. He talked about his intense interest in birds, which are the primary inhabitants of that sanctuary.

After that experience I purchased a couple of bird identification guides and stepped up my birding game a bit. I can’t identify nearly as many species as those whom I’ve accompanied on birding trips, but I enjoy it nevertheless. It’s an interesting activity.

Sadly, there’s a downward trend in bird numbers, particularly songbirds, that shows no sign of abating. Down too is the number of bird watchers who actively participate in bird counts. Both trends are troubling.

Birds are an indicator of our changing environment. There’s a reason their numbers continue to dwindle. It’s a slice of life worthy of watching.

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