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Birdfinding in Humboldt

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  • dfxjcp@humboldt1.com
    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
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 1, 2004
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      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
      landmarks.

      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 out.

      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
      Arcata
    • Ron LeValley
      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
      Message 2 of 4 , 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.

        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arcatabirdbox/

        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
        ron@...
        707/839-0900
        Fax 839-0867
        www.madriverbio.com
        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
        landmarks.

        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
        out.

        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
        Arcata



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      • wagtail1997
        Just a thought...but if it is recognized that the wide expanses makes it difficult to refind birds in Humboldt County, why not start using GPS coordinates on
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 1, 2004
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          Just a thought...but if it is recognized that the wide expanses makes
          it difficult to refind birds in Humboldt County, why not start using
          GPS coordinates on the RBA reports? GPS units are relatively
          inexpensive today, and many birders own such units. I don't think
          that technology has been utilized on RBAs to any great extent, but it
          would be a natural for the situation described. Joel Weintraub, Dana
          Point, CA (OrCoRBA compiler)
        • John Sterling
          I d like to add some additional comments. NWCalbirds is a listserve for the Humboldt region. I suggest that outside visitors send an email to that listserve
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 1, 2004
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            I'd like to add some additional comments. NWCalbirds is a listserve for the
            Humboldt region. I suggest that outside visitors send an email to that
            listserve announcing when they plan to visit and what they hope to see.
            When I lived in Humboldt from 1979-1991, we rarely had visiting birders so
            we did not often keep tabs on rare birds once all of the locals had seen
            them. By letting the locals know that you are interested, they may keep
            better track of these birds. Also...most of the older, more experienced
            birders in Humboldt County are very busy with work (most of them are working
            biologists), so they don't always have the time that they used to have for
            keeping track of these rare birds. So...please be considerate when placing
            "expectations" on their time. However, they are very generous and many of
            the newer birders are especially active in getting their county lists up to
            snuff, so it is likely that someone could help out visitors. (dare I say
            that providing some sort of compensation for their limited time may do
            wonders for their morale as many of them, especially the students are on
            limited budgets)

            I second Fix's remark that there is an abundance of habitat......not
            surprisingly, much of the good habitat is not checked regularly outside of
            the immediate Humboldt Bay area .....so don't be shy about checking other
            coastal areas as they are likely to hold outstanding rareties that have not
            yet been discovered. Many of the known hot spots are little more than
            unmarked areas that locals know about from a collective knowledge of
            historical sightings....so these locations are not easily described in
            writing since many of us just "know" the location--I couldn't describe
            exactly where many of these locations are after birding them for 25 years.
            Fix did a good job of explaining this issue. Perhaps GPS units will solve
            these problems in the future once this technology takes hold in the birding
            community.

            Also...it is important for outside visitors to let the locals know of their
            own sightings as well. When I was living up there, we sometimes had
            outsiders report birds days or weeks after the sightings. The locals do not
            like that at all!

            John
            **********************************
            John Sterling
            26 Palm Ave
            Woodland, CA 95695
            530 668-8694 (home office)
            530 668-1985 (home)
            916 737-3000 ext 3593 (Sacramento office)
            916 752-0899 (cell phone)


            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Ron LeValley" <ron@...>
            To: <dfxjcp@...>; <calbirds@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 12:13 PM
            Subject: RE: [CALBIRDS] Birdfinding in Humboldt


            > 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.
            >
            > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arcatabirdbox/
            >
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