Friday, June 14, 2019

Morning for the birds

If you've been following this blog for a while you know by now that I am passionate about living into community with all that has life in Jesus' name; this means treating everything that has life as a neighbor to me. Jesus teaches that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Furthermore, everything that has life is created by God and is loved by God, which brings me to this truth: one of the very profound ways that we can love God is by loving what God loves, and a critical step towards loving our neighbors is getting to know our neighbors enough to understand our neighbors, to care for our neighbors in ways that matter, and to give our neighbors the space they need to thrive. To care for another's well-being is to love another.

And so, let me share with you one of the ways that scientific study can pave the way towards love and understanding of our wild neighbors. Long story short, this morning was for the birds.

In my love for God and my love for my winged neighbors I participated in a United States Geological Survey North American Breeding Bird Survey for the second consecutive year with my friend Kathy. We followed a strict protocol so our efforts and observations will continue to be a valuable piece of the puzzle of analyzing local, regional, and national trends in bird population fluctuations and dynamics.

Our Breeding Bird Survey route starts in Austinville, PA. At daybreak we drove the 25 mile survey route, making 50 stops along the way. I have the responsibility of identifying as many birds as possible within 1/4 mile radius during our (exactly!) 3 minute time frame at each stop and Kathy has the responsibility of recording the number of each species on the data sheets as I call it out. The route has to be done in the morning since that's when the birds are most active and vocal and most of the identifications are made by listening.

We started the route at 5am and completed our route at 9:40am. The species count varied at each of our 50 stops but altogether we located a total of over 600 individual birds that were representatives of 70 different species that are most likely breeding or attempting to breed in the vicinity of our 25 mile route.

A couple of our favorite birds that we encountered today were yellow-throated vireo, grasshopper sparrow, orchard oriole, and green heron. While I did not take time to photograph any of these today due to the rigorous (but exciting!) nature of a USGS North American Breeding Bird Survey, I have attached photos I've taken of each of these birds from other birding trips.

To me it is a great joy to be part of something much bigger than myself for the sake of our wild neighbors, and to do so in my love for God.

(My friend Kathy and I, upon completion of the 50th and final stop of today's BBS)

(yellow-throated vireo- taken a couple years ago at Ives Run Recreation Area)

 (first year orchard oriole- taken a couple years ago at Delmar Ridge, near Wellsboro, PA)

 (green heron on its nest- taken last year at Hershey, PA)

(grasshopper sparrow- taken last year in Gettysburg, PA)












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