Northern Fulmars - Fulmaris glacialis
Whitless Bay, Newfoundland, Canada
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1000 at f/7.1, ISO 400, handheld
The first of these is the chance to view locally nesting species and, with the help of eBird, collect valuable data on those local breeders. While all habitat is important, it would be difficult to argue against breeding habitat as the most valuable to most species. I appreciate the value of Christmas Counts, but I have always though it would be really cool if a similar community-based effort was put into censusing nesting species. I suspect that if the holiday season fell in June we'd be doing exactly that, but as it is people have more time off in December. What this means is that the data that individuals generate with respect to locally nesting species is particularly valuable. So, while species diversity in areas such as Coastal California might be lower in summer, the data contained in eBird checklists from those months still has great value!
Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Empidonax difficilus
Huntington Beach, California
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/800 at f/11, ISO 800, bit of flash.
American Oystercatcher - Haematopus palliatus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 7D original
1/160 at f/11, ISO 320, handheld
Cliff Swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Palo Alto, California
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II on EOS 7D2
1/5000 at f/4, ISO 1000, handheld
All that being said, it's really important to respect the space of all birds, but particularly nesting birds. There are all sorts of procedural and ethical considerations, and I would point you to this article from Audubon rather than rehashing points that have already been stated nicely. The biggest thing is that nesting birds are tolerant of humans if humans take the time to establish trust with the birds. Walking straight up to a nest and scaring off the parents is not how to do this. Find a nest, observe it for an hour, and learn the birds' behavior. Let the birds additionally get used to your presence over the course of several hours or even several days. If you don't want to take the time to approach nests respectfully, then please consider not doing it at all. If the birds fly off and don't immediately return or they look agitated, back off! It's really that simple. Think of how you'd want your kids treated and return the favor to the birds.
I'm off to Minnesota for the first time on Friday! Will be fun to bird a new state (#44!). I'll also be spending a few days in South Dakota (#45!), so I'd love to hear from people about birding in those areas! After this trip I'll just be missing Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.
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