A Dusky Grouse scurries across the road in Grand Teton National Park, WY.
I was reading Carrie’s post last month and got to thinking about car birding in general. Personally, I am a big fan of car birding, despite the necessary fossil fuel burning that is involved. That not-insignificant-caveat aside, I think it has a lot to offer.
For many birders, the thought of car birding is as natural as using a field guide. But for some bird lovers, the idea of car birding is abhorrent. There you are, on some stupid road, trapped inside of a vehicle, getting absolutely no exercise at all, you can barely hear birdsong over the engine noise. Instead of deeply inhaling The Great Outdoors, you are smelling the foul smells of car exhaust and whatever it was that got spilled in the back seat last week, not to mention yourself….it truly sounds like a horrible way to connect with birds. Indeed, can you truly experience the wonder of nature from the confines of a vehicle?
Always, always, have binoculars and camera within reach when you are driving around on a birding trip. This Swainson’s Hawk was photographed above a gas station in Idaho.
I have met several birders who think this way, and their arguments have validity. But hear me birders, for I am The Greatest Ornithologist. The weight of my argument crushes all others. This is what we have to remember:
- Many species are easier to observe at close range from a vehicle than on foot.
- You can cover a lot of territory with a lot of speed; granted not always a good thing, but sometimes time is of the essence.
Even shorebirds can be fond of cars, like this ravenous Red-necked Phalarope. Point Mugu, CA.
- Handicapped/injured/not-so-fit birders don’t do so well on trails.
- The thought of carbirding while ill sounds relatively appealing compared to walking around in excessive heat, cold, wind, and rain.
- In fact, the thought of carbirding while healthy sounds relatively appealing compared to walking around in excessive heat, cold, wind and rain.
Barbed wire fences are terrible for wildlife, snaring large birds and mammals alike…but for smaller passerines, they sure make good perches. Experienced birders know how appealing a barbed wire fence can be to open country birds. This roadside Mountain Bluebird was photographed near Santa Ynez, CA.
- In many places (i.e. National Wildlife Refuges, various wetland sites) you are supposed to bird from your car to prevent the needless flushing of birds. Why ignore these great birding spots just because of the modest rules?
- It’s easier to consume coffee in the car…and let me tell you, I LOVE COFFEE.
- As Carrie did, car birding is a great way to break in prospective new birders.
- And the most important argument for car birding there is…if you really care about seeing birds, who cares if you do it from a car? Is it different from going to some wretched sewage treatment ponds or a filthy/sketchy urban park? If there is not much traffic to worry about, I get no less enjoyment birding from a car than I do from foot or on a boat…in moderation, of course.
Many of you have driven the auto tour loops that are at many National Wildlife Refuges. This stoked Great Egret was at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, CA. And if you are wondering…there was no happy ending for the rodent.
So please, if you are one of those whingers who think birding from a car is BS, consider these many positives. I am not advocating laziness here, just taking advantage of all the birding opportunities you can. Put aside your quasi-elitist foot-only birding mentality and appreciate the birding opportunities your car affords you. You will see more birds. You will be closer to them. You will be a better birder. Does that sound so bad?
All photos today were taken from inside or next to vehicles.
This is one of many Black Terns flying low over a bridge at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota.
Why limit ourselves to the U.S.? This impossible-looking Turqouise-browed Motmot is not only something that actually exists, but was shot out of a car window near Tarcoles, Costa Rica.