July 2020 Supplement

Virtual Birding in a Time of Isolation IV

Despite the hope that normal activities could soon resume, and recent attempts to explore loosening, limitations on group birding and other social meetings still seem advisable. This fourth collection of supplemental resources continues the attempt to offer a broad range of useful, engaging, and enjoyable at-home "birdy" activities.

Products for reducing bird window strikes were covered in the July 2019 "Bird-Friendly" article, but none were suitable for DIY projects. Fortunately, Jeff Acopian has contacted us about his BirdSavers designs and the free plans and instructions[1] that he has posted. A brief, informative video called How to Stop the Thuds[2] illustrates both the problem and a solution, with custom-made "Zen Wind Curtains" available for institutions and those homeowners who are not handy. A spectacular example of a BirdSavers installation is at the Arenal Volcano Observatory Lodge[3] in Costa Rica, where the window strike mortality rate is reported to have decreased by 99%. Jeff's family has an unusual connection to birds, as experts associated with his father's philanthropic project literally "wrote the book" on the birds of Armenia, available free online[4] in English from the Acopian Center for the Environment. Check out the Armenian Gull[5] and make travel plans for when the quarantines end!

Closer to most readers' homes are the birds of the Western United States, and international bird guide and trained evolutionary biologist Alvaro Jaramillo has been presenting a set of weekly Webinars[6] focused on the San Mateo coastside of California. A model for what can be done with interactive, online presentations, Alvaro covers a broad array of species and habitats with enthusiasm and a deep understanding. Although not intended as advertisements for his pelagic excursions[7] out of Half Moon Bay or his other tours, no doubt many web participants will be eager to sign up when the trips resume.

Likely to persist long after the current situation, the Cornell Labs Bird Academy Discussions[8] offer an opportunity to get ID help, share birding tips, and join more community-building activities with other logged-in users. While there are groups where sharing is limited to enrolled course members, a paid Academy account is not required to read posts, as even a simple eBird membership qualifies! Academy staff participate in the discussions, providing a solid grounding sometimes absent from social media.

For a diverting bit of silliness with a serious intent at its core, it's hard to beat the Hawk Personality Quiz[9] from the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory[10]. Try it with another birder! Choose your preferences of things like condiments, music, and such, and find out what kind of raptor you're most like. Not that Red-tails actually prefer Beethoven, but it's an amusing and informative exercise that makes hawk watching (see the upcoming August article) all the more intriguing and fun.


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