Do You Know all Your Local Habitats?

In a previous post http://wp.me/p3Q2lz-29 I discussed reviewing status and distribution charts so you would know which uncommon birds are in your area and when they will be there.  I also posted about spending a lot of time in the field http://wp.me/p3Q2lz-30 and being persistent when you are in the field http://wp.me/p3Q2lz-2n.  So before you start studying the literature for hints where to find uncommon birds, you need to know all habitats in your local area.

Following is the list of habitats used by the Indiana Audubon Society for their summer count.

Pasture or Grassland
Brushy or Shrubby Fields
Deciduous Woods
Coniferous Woods
Urban or Parks
Agricultural or Plowed Cropland
Marsh or Swamps
Lakes or Ponds
Rivers or Streams

So this is a list of habitats that a Midwest birder might find.  If you live in the Midwest, do you know the location of every one of these habitats in your area?  Have you bushwhacked through every public park and wildlife area for these habitats?  Have you drove every country road looking for these areas?

The best way I know to find diverse habitat is to bike your area.   There is something about biking as opposed to driving through the countryside in a car that will allow you to hear and see more habitat.

A story to demonstrate.  I used to bike 4 miles to a small park that was good for passerines.  On the ride I would pass an area by an old garage.  One time it finally dawned on me that I was hearing Red-winged Blackbirds every time that I biked by.  On closer inspection the area was wet with a little pond with cattails in back.  I walked into the area and snipe flew out everywhere, plus a Solitary Sandpiper.  I had driven by that area in a car literally 100’s of times and never noticed it.

Wilson's Snipe - One of four that were on a mud island at Atterbury FWA.  By November there were up to 10 at this location.  082513
Wilson’s Snipe – One of four that were on a mud island at Atterbury FWA. By November there were up to 10 at this location. 082513

Another story.  I would occasionally bike the 8 miles out to a nature preserve.  I had driven out there several times in a car and had never heard Western Meadowlarks, kind of an uncommon bird in North-Central Illinois.  But riding my bike I heard several calling in one small area.  Riding either way a half mile all I heard were Eastern Meadowlarks.  Those respective areas were the only areas in our county where Wilson’s Snipe and Western Meadowlark were found on the annual Illinois Spring Count.

Western Meadowlark - Not a great image but taken in the early morning light when I was out on a bike ride before the 2010 Illinois Spring Count. 042310
Western Meadowlark – Not a great image but taken in the early morning light when I was out on a bike ride before the 2010 Illinois Spring Count. 042310

So like the main theme of this blog, the point is to get out and bushwhack your local area for new habitats.  They are out there and contain birds you previously drove miles to find.

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