1. The votes are in, and Red-naped Sapsucker is the winner and my proud new nemesis, although Gray-crowned Rosy Finch also made a strong showing. Congrats to Red-naped Sapsucker, and thanks to all who voted and shared their own nemesis stories.
He’d like to thank his mom, his agent, and of course the Birding Academy. This is just such an honor and a break-through for sapsuckers everywhere, and when he thinks about how he was teased for his name in school, or all the years that he was considered a mere subspecies, he can’t help but reflect on what a huge step this is, not just for himself but for every bird in his situation, and…. (orchestra starts.)
2. While I still admire the nuances of late winter* — things like Belted Kingfishers flying in tandem, Canada Geese having large honking naval battles, and still-significant flocks of Pine Siskins hanging out in my back yard — I am starting to get a wee bit jealous of those of you for whom migration is already bringing assorted blackbirds and ambitious swallows. Perhaps I should hike Mt. Sentinel and check if the Mountain Bluebirds are back on territory yet.
3. One thing assuaging that jealousy, though, is the proliferation of nest cams (currently I’m enjoying the Red-tailed Hawks at my old alma mater.) Nest cams represent, I believe, a genuine and wonderous instance of a problem actually being solved by new technology. Once upon a time, people and especially children felt free to interact with wild birds in any way that would satisfy their curiousity — watching and learning, yes, but also harassing and chasing, collecting eggs and nests, stealing nestlings as “pets”, and killing birds for amateur taxidermy efforts. This kind of behavior was eventually banned, and rightfully so, but there followed a generation that tended to have little interaction of any kind with their avian neighbors. This bred both indifference, and on the flip side a tendency to overly pester the few charismatic birds they did come in contact with. The nest cam, in my mind, is the perfect compromise — minimally invasive to the bird, while offering even the most unadventureous or house-bound humans the opportunity to get to know a small slice of nature. Moreover, children can watch nest cams without adult supervision so a parent’s lack of knowledge or interest is no boundary to the child’s education, the way it would be if learning required a visit to the park or an investment in binoculars. Hooray, in short, for nest cams.
4. Does anyone here have personal experience visiting the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge? I’m planning a trip and seeking advice.
5. Finally, I want to leave you with a thought from the astonishing Barry Lopez, who gave a Q & A here at the University of Montana yesterday: “So much of memory is tied to being in love with the world.” This weekend, remember a bird you love.