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2829RE: [CALBIRDS] Birdfinding in Humboldt

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  • Ron LeValley
    Jan 1, 2004
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      Hi all,

      Thanks to David for his post on Humboldt birding challenges. I might add
      that for those of you with high speed internet connections and are yahoo
      group members (most of you are, or you wouldn't be reading this), you can
      subscribe in (almost) real time to the Arcata Bird Box.


      This listserv recieves audio messages which are called in to the Arcata
      BirdBox (707) 822-5666 (LOON).

      The benefits of using this listserv are saving on your long-distance phone
      bills by getting Arcata BirdBox messages in your mailbox. Another plus is
      you receive voice messages in your mailbox minutes (mean = 5 minutes,
      n=10)after it is called in. Also you get the messages without tying up the
      BirdBox phone.

      Messages get sent as .wav files. Broadband helps as average file size is
      270kb. Max size is about 1 MB.

      Our thanks go to Elias Elias for setting up this really useful service.

      Ron LeValley

      Ron LeValley, Senior Biologist
      Fax 839-0867
      Mad River Biologists
      1497 Central Avenue
      McKinleyville, CA 95519

      -----Original Message-----
      From: dfxjcp@... [mailto:dfxjcp@...]
      Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 11:57 AM
      To: calbirds@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [CALBIRDS] Birdfinding in Humboldt

      I don't often post to Calbirds, but I am going to ask ninety seconds of your
      time today.

      An out-of-the-area birder has recently complained to me (this is Fix
      writing) about difficulty in relocating some rarities here in Humboldt
      County lately. That post has spurred me to explain to the Calbirds
      readership, and to newer birders, why these things happen. For starters,
      99% of Humboldt County is rural countryside. This is an area larger than
      some eastern states and with 150,000 people, nearly all jammed into the
      Humboldt Bay lowlands and a few tiny towns elsewhere. With the exception of
      Arcata Marsh, the birds you want to chase and see often show up in
      out-of-the-way places in expanses of outlying habitat with few working

      In contrast to, say, Southern California, habitat for rare birds here is
      abundant. Humboldt is really nothing BUT habitat. We have heard birders
      from farther south in California, accustomed to going to parks or estuarine
      reserves, say that there is so much habitat they 'don't know where to bird'.
      This is not all roses. When a grackle or sparrow or some other such
      pastoral-country bird shows up, it may be way out along some side road or
      farm lane miles from anywhere. If an odometer reading is by chance not
      included in the initial directions, finding one's way to such a place can be
      tough. We do our best. It takes time to understand how the area is laid

      Some have expressed the opinion that, in general, the directions on the
      Arcata Bird Box are not sufficient. This is in part true. It is also a
      fact that the Box exists chiefly for the use of local birders. An
      out-of-town birder interested in building a Humboldt list cannot expect
      thorough directions to a Blackpoll, a Barred Owl, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
      or any other fairly routine vagrant to be on the Box. We rely on the Box to
      help each other keep the pulse, to decide where to spend an hour and a half
      out birding; Stan Harris and I use the reports in compiling field notes.
      Conversely, we know what's Hot, and try to provide the best guidance allowed
      in the minute's time allowed for messages.

      Resources exist that will help you. There is the Arcata area birding guide,
      available locally. It is dated, and is pretty much designed for beginning
      birders, but remains useful. The gazetteer section of Stanley Harris's
      excellent Northwestern California Birds (HSU Press 1996) is replete with
      well-worded detail and good maps. Directions at Joe Morlan's website,
      readily found and printed out, are helpful. 'California Birding' will get
      you there in a search.

      Especially helpful are our local birders. There are many fine people who
      live here who are into birds, know where they show up, know precisely how to
      guide others to rarities on the phone, know the area can be confusing, know
      that precious time and money are invested in travel, and are happy to take
      time to assist out-of-area birders. I will gladly put our phone number out
      there, it's (707) 822-3613. Give Jude or myself a call. Give us or any of
      a number of others a ring when you get to town. We have a thriving birding
      community, made up of people who want others to enjoy success when they
      arrive after tiring drives or overpriced air connections.

      Thank you for your attention and understanding.

      David Fix

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