Northern Parula–Count It or Not?

The picture of a Northern Parula at the right was taken from Wikipedia and is by Dan Pancamo of Dan Pancamo Photography.

Although several pictures were taken of our local bird, I didn’t try to get pictures because it would have involved taking pictures of a house and possibly into windows of that house. The idea of even looking at the bird made me uncomfortable. I also would have had to get closer to the bird than I wanted.

Northern Parula is listed as extremely rare in our checklist of Mendocino Birds. I had not seen one yet in the county. Most NOPAs are found in Mendocino about the second week in June to the end of that month. Many have been found at the Caspar Cemetery. I had been concentrating my attention in that area this year. 

Around 5:00PM on June 16th I got a call from Jerry White (a Lake County birder who has seen the most bird species in Mendocino County) about a NOPA at the Sanford Inn. Jerry and his wife Nikki were staying at the Inn. He gave me directions to see the bird. My wife was away and I was feeding our dog. Basically I threw the plate of dog food on the floor, opened the front door if she had to get outside, gathered my birding gear, wrote a very cryptic note for my wife and drove down to the Stanford Inn while waving to my wife as she came up the road. I joined Jerry and his wife and first heard the bird then eventually saw it. 

This is a phenomenon called, “chasing”. As far as I know, it only happens in the recreational “hobby” of birding. The need for speed is created because birds fly and your chances of seeing it lessens with time. This particular bird has generated several chases so far. One from Lake County (not Jerry White), one from Ukiah, one from north of Fort Bragg, some I don’t know about so we’re approaching almost 300 car miles used just to see it. Several of these trips are people doing “year” lists. They already have this bird for their Mendocino list. This type of thing happens all over this country, all over the world. A really good bird will bring people from all over the country. Check out the reception (scroll down) for a Common Cuckoo found last year.

So, do I count this bird for my “green” year? The conversation in my head goes something like this. The loud climate change voice says, “how can you count it when you dropped everything and drove to the Stanford Inn?” The quiet climate change voice says, “the Stanford Inn is closer to me than the Mendocino bus stop. I wouldn’t have chased it if it had been further.” Loud, ” the bird stayed several days, you could have gotten it in a greener way.” Quiet, “didn’t know that then.” Loud, “you’re doing a “green” year, how can you count it?” Quiet, “please read the blog. I didn’t promise not to use my truck, just as little as possible.” Loud, “if that’s the case, you might as well count the Wilson’s Snipe you found on Ten Mile early in the year.” Quiet, “keeping talking Loud, you just might convince me.”

You can see how my mind works and I think quiet voice won that time. Current totals are 219 bird species with over 1435 car miles saved.

Any comments?


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