The Paradox of Hot Spot

In the past few weeks I have seen more birders than any time since we moved to Indiana. And this includes Big May Days and Christmas Bird Counts. The reason is I encountered the Eagle Creek Sunday Group one weekend and went on Don Gorney’s Fort Harrison State Park Sunday morning walk the next weekend. And it was fun to be among all the birders. So much so I’ll continue to go occasionally. But seeing the birders at those locations once again brings up The Paradox of Hot Spot.

Does a “Hot Spot” that theoretically increases ones odds of seeing more species outweigh birding lesser birded areas to increase bird data? Because the way we are headed is getting repeated data from certain “Hot Spots” like Eagle Creek.

But as most things the truth probably is in the middle.

Mike and I visited Eagle Creek’s Marina for the second time this month in hopes of seeing warblers. And we did along, with several other birders. This is still strange since I rarely encounter birders at my usual spots.

A Blackpoll Warbler sitting up nicely enjoying the view.
If not for the twig this would have been a good photo of a Cape May Warbler.

And later in the morning we birded the north end and saw a nice variety of shorebirds. Plus encountered several other birders.

This is an ID photo of a Baird’s Sandpiper.
And one of two Stilt Sandpipers working the mud flat.
Paradox of Hot Spot
Would this be the same young Laughing Gull I found a few weeks ago?

In the past I have birded areas where I go the entire day and not encountered birders. (Bushwhacking) And probably not as many species. But I always feel good at the end of the day finding my own birds and adding to the overall data.

But not many people do this type of birding. Most are lured by The Pull to a “Hot Spot” to see birds. So as much as eBird is expanding citizen science data, in my opinion it also promotes birding at certain “Hot Spots” only. Which to me is a paradox.

So how to overcome this? Not sure since it’s probably been happening since birding started. Data from repeatable surveys like the Breeding Bird Survey will still be used for future conservation efforts. Maybe eBird could include something like a repeatable, timed route. But like I have posted before people won’t do those since they are lured by The Pull to a Hot Spot.

Going forward I’ll hopefully be able to split my time between “Hot Spots”, since I need to do more Social Birding, and my less birded areas. We’ll see.

Stilt Sandpiper, Maybe? – Weekend Highlights

When it’s the end of August, the temperature is 74F, the humidity is 90% at 5AM, and there is a chance of thunderstorms all day, you hope the birding isn’t going to slow. But if you have birded long enough to read the signs you know it is going to be slow. And it was. Almost eerily quiet. So not many highlights.

Franklin Township Community Park was the start of the day for a little owling which didn’t pan out but I had my first encounter of the year with mosquitoes. It was just a matter of time before all the rain started to produce good number of them.  The reason I picked Franklin Township Community Park was because it’s adjacent to watered high school athletic fields and this is a good time of year to check them for shorebirds. They aren’t as productive as sod farms but you never know. Like the time I found the American Golden Plovers in Franklin.

KILL (1)
Taken right before sunrise this photo shows some of the 50 Killdeer on the athletic fields. One never knows when an American Golden-Plover or Buff-breasted Sandpiper might show. 8/27/16

On to the local shorebird spot and the morning departure of Canada Geese. It doesn’t take long for 500 geese to fly off even in smaller groups of 25.

A quick binocular scan didn’t produce many shorebirds besides Killdeer and a few peeps. And one Lesser Yellowlegs. Or not?

STSA (2) Stilt Sandpiper
My first impression was a Lesser Yellowlegs. But it wasn’t feeding in a frenzied manner.
STSA (6)
The legs seemed a little too short and the bill not needle enough.
STSA (10)
It then came into view a little better and the bright supercilium started pointing to a Stilt Sandpiper.
Here is a cropped and enlarged photo. Bill doesn’t look long enough for a Stilt Sandpiper but it might be the angle.
STSA (17)
Even in this blurry distant photo you can tell the size compared to the Killdeer. Even feeding a Lesser Yellowlegs legs should appear longer than the Killdeer’s legs whereas a Stilt Sandpiper’s would be about the same. And in this pose the bill appears fairly thick.

Am I 100% sure it is a Stilt Sandpiper? No. In the field it didn’t appear or act to be a Lesser Yellowlegs. And everyone is encouraged to chime in if they have an opinion.

No birding Sunday as the day was spent painting the daughter’s bedroom. Luckily she has no more rooms to paint!