Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rare Bird?

Do You Take your Backyard Birds for Granted?

This is a question that occurred to me recently while I was watching some of our local birds at my feeder.
 An American Cardinal 
Several years ago my husband and I took a trip to New Zealand, rented a camper, and camped our way from the South Island to the top of the North Island.  This mode of travel allowed us to see much more of the local flora and fauna than is normally seen from a tour bus. 

On our first couple of days there we encountered a number of unfamiliar seabirds and shorebirds, which we expected since we were then staying at a campground on the east coast of the South Island.  On our third day we crossed the mountains to the west coast and stayed in a charming little town called Hokitika. 

We had planned to travel down the coast to the glacier the next morning, but when we awakened the fog was so thick we could barely see to cross the street—not a good day to drive through mountainous terrain in unfamiliar territory on the “wrong” side of the road.  So instead we toured this charming little town on foot, met some of the local shopkeepers, and asked for advice as to where they would go to sightsee on such a foggy day.  The majority advised us to take a short trip out of town to Lake Kanieri.
The ferns were breathtaking! 
Frankly I think this unexpected side trip was probably a big improvement on glacier watching.  We encountered towering tree ferns, a beautiful waterfall, and some of the most gorgeous fern laden scenery I have ever seen.  As we were “oohing” and “aahing” over the fantastic plant life before us we spotted a strange looking bird strolling along hunting for insects in an open grassy field.  I immediately began taking photos of this exotic bird (I am a "shoot the photo first and then look it up later" kind of person).  I probably took 50 or 60 photos of this bird before we moved on.  The bird was a Weka—considered vulnerable, but not particularly rare in this locality.
 The bird turned out to be a Weka--a member of the rail family
Throughout this trip the above scenario was repeated many times---Pukeko (common), Australasian Harrier, Tomtit, New Zealand Pigeon, Tui, Bellbird, Fantail, Australian Magpie—all birds that were relatively common and on the IUCN list as Least Concern.  Granted, these birds weren’t particularly rare in that part of the world, but they were strange and new to me.
This South Island Tomtit, though relatively common, was an exotic species for us. 
So, the next time you are sitting at your window watching your feeders, just for a moment, look at your visiting birds through the eyes of someone from another country.
 Can you imagine someone from another country's reaction to this common American Goldfinch?
Can you imagine how excited they would be to see common (to us) birds such as Cardinals, American Robins, American Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Cooper’s Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks?  In particular imagine how excited they would be to see an actual Hummingbird or a Bald Eagle.  All of these species are native only to the Americas—some only to North America.
If I were from another part of the world the sight of this hummingbird would definitely get my heart racing 
Sometimes we have to step back and take a really good look at the wildlife right before our eyes that we often take for granted.

Don’t forget to feed your backyard birds this winter—they may be someone else’s rare sighting!

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer Photographer  

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