My First Birdathon

Perspective of a Novice Birder during Audubon Vermont's Birdathon

It is not so often that we are able to challenge ourselves in an outdoor setting that does not equate success to physical prowess. Luckily, the Audubon Vermont Staff Birdathon in May 2024 gave us this opportunity!  

Waking at dawn and meeting everyone on the visitor’s porch allowed me to fully appreciate how exciting it is to be a member of such a cohesive group. Although we hiked for hours and covered miles of terrain - from hardwood forests to meadows and hemlock swamps - our quest to tally as many species as possible was an intrinsic motivator. Reliving these moments of fleeting beauty, discovery and fellowship, I feel tremendous gratitude for having participated in this adventure.

Blue-Winged Warbler perched on a branch
Blue-Winged Warbler on branch Photo: Hans Nedde

One would think that primary birding identification would rely on visual observation, while in reality, our ears are more important than our eyes in the world of birding. For the novice bird enthusiast, mnemonic phrases are a great way of learning to recognize each bird's unique songs and calls. My favorites are “pizza, pizza, pizza, Pizza” by the Ovenbird, followed by “sweet, sweet sweet, I’m so sweet” from the Yellow Warbler. However, Merlin Bird ID (a free mobile app designed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology) is a valuable tool to have on your phone that allows you to immediately identify any species. What makes Merlin truly a wizard is its ability to differentiate birds, such as the Blue Jay, that mimics the calls of other species. As I relied on Merlin, I was truly in awe of the experienced birders who had trained their ears to decipher the symphony of sounds that surrounded us.

Yellow Warbler sitting on a flowering tree
Yellow Warbler Photo: Hans Nedde

After hiking all our center's trails and the Birds of Vermont Museum trail I was exhausted and ready to call it a day, however my peers' enthusiasm and passion for finding and spotting our avian friends inspired me to push on to find as many birds as we could. We then squeezed into a few cars and would pull over every time we saw a silhouette flying in the sky. After stopping a few times we headed to Geprags Community Park, a place our field conservationists are very familiar with since they had helped manage the area as a Golden-winged warbler habitat. It was uplifting to watch the Golden- winged Warbler soar through the trees and I couldn't help but appreciate my colleagues' work with these majestic birds. We then ended our day after Geprags community park and finished the Birdathon with a total count of ninety-five different birds.

Birds are singing everywhere at this time of year, and discovering their personal melodies is a great way to disconnect from our hectic lives, and for families and friends to spend time together appreciating the wonders of Vermont.

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