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This has been rattling around in my head for a while now, and it seems like a good time to test the waters for a regular (or at least pretty reliably semi-regular) bird blog.  I'm guessing that at least a fair number of Kossacks are birders, or at least find them sorta interesting in a general way.  Even if only 1% of the community are into birds, that's still 1,000+ potentially interested people.

Why birds?  (Besides that fact that I like 'em, that is.)  Well for one thing, they are quite entwined in two things that are important on DKos:  politics and community.  Warblers and politics?  Climate change, land use policies, energy policy, agricultural policy, even health (pandemic flu, anyone?) - all of those directly affect birds, and are sometimes affected by birds.  Community ties come with birding as a social pursuit, and as it relates to other interests like gardening, outdoor life, science, art/photography and travel.  

One other great thing about birds is that they seem to be one of the very few things that can get people to work together across social and political divides.  An obvious example is wetlands preservation, which brings together the tree huggers and the duck hunters.  (The parking lot at refuges have some real interesting assortments of bumper stickers.)  We may not agree on much, but we all get behind saving these open spaces.  Likewise, some Evangelicals have been getting serious about the concept of "stewardship".  When we share one common goal with others, it's easier to open a dialogue and discover what else we have in common - a desire for a economic justice, concerns about health care and education, and yeah - ending this pointless war.    I think that's one of the things that helped make inroads into some of the western states in 2006.

But, truthfully, the main thing is just that birds are cool.  They do interesting stuff; they're beautiful or they're fierce or they're goofy looking; they're in the most urban downtown city blocks and the most remote mountain tops and distant islands.  They have the power to immediately lift you from the depths of a crappy day to a moment of sheer joy.  In a time where we're increasingly disconnected from the natural world (strawberries in January?), they help keep us connected to the bigger cycles.  A lifetime of studying them will still leave you with two lifetimes of questions to ask and chances to learn.

I've been a birder of sorts for 20 years now - I got my first field guide about a month after I got married. (1987 was a good year.) For the first few years, it was very casual - just watching the birds in our yard in San Francisco and at our cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains.  Restoring hubby's family's decrepit cabin was what sparked the interest; I saw all of these little yellow things in the trees and wanted to know what they were.  (Townsend's Warblers will always have a special place in my heart as the first bird I ever identified from a field guide.)  A few years later, I went on my first walk with the local Audubon group, through Golden Gate Park, and was amazed that there were than many kinds of birds so close to my house.  In 1993, things moved to a different level when I started volunteering as a bander (something that I still do every fall).  Getting the chance to help with citizen science was a real turning point in my life.  I have been fortunate to be able to participate in some out of area research projects (as a minion, doing grunt work - but still...) and have had the privilege of working with and learning from some amazing people.

What about you?  Would you find it interesting to have a space to talk birds once a week or so?  Share photos and stories, ask questions?  I'm hoping that there will be interest from all over the country (and world), because there's so much of interest in all of the different regions.  Birds do seem to bring out the best in our writing skills - a good recent example being Old Friends Checking Out by Devilstower, both the diary and the comments.

If it flies, I'm torn about the timing.  Weekends seem to be the best time for this type of diary, but when?  Saturday morning and Sunday night make most sense - Saturday morning because you can get ideas for the weekend ahead; Sunday night because you can recap the weekend just past.  Any suggestions?  And is it appropriate to ask if anyone would like to co-host?  (Or is that presumptuous, given that it's not clear how much interest there will be?)

A starter question - if your user name is bird-related, what's the story behind it?

I'll close with some photos of the birds who inspired my screen name:  the Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus (please note their Kos-appropriate color scheme).  They are widespread in the SF Bay Area; native to oak woodlands but they've adapted very well to eucalyptus, and thus to city life.  They nest at remarkable densities in Golden Gate Park.  Unfortunately, a dozen or more were killed there earlier this year by a stupid application of a rodentcide; fortunately, at least one survived.  (After the linked articles were published, reports came forward about additional birds, including at least one redtail and a great horned owl.)  The city has since banned the use of this chemical in parks.

If you're from the east coast, our California 'shoulders will look quite different.  (And those Florida birds - do they ever come in from the sun?  Talk about bleached out!)

Red-shouldered Hawk, adult
You might notice her very full crop.  When we banded her, she still had coot feathers from lunch stuck to her talons.

Red-shouldered Hawk, juvenile
A juvenile California redshoulder... not quite as colorful as the adults, but still a fine-looking bird.

Originally posted to lineatus on Sat Jun 23, 2007 at 05:31 AM PDT.


How much are you into the things with wings?

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