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Suburban birding: Things to keep in mind

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Old Saturday 31st July 2004, 17:01   #1
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Suburban birding: Things to keep in mind

Suburban birding has its own problems. You may not get stuck ankle deep in mud, but you need to watch out for cars. Especially when they back into the street.

You need some binoculars, waterproof is best. THen you can do your rounds rain or shine. In the spring and fall, a field guide may be of use for migrants. People will invariably come and ask you what you are looking at. To adults, I say that I thought there was a nest in their tree. That way I don't need to explain much more. There was no nest. Kids will want to ude your binoculars. Show them a cardinal or other colorful bird, because they do not know how to find birds.

Take care not to aim binoculars at people's living rooms. Walk around so that you aim at the tree and bird only. One guy accused me of being a snoop and taking pictures of his house. Did he not know that private investigators usually sit in parked cars and take pictures sneakily?

Avoid playgrounds, pools etc. where small kids are. You could be suspected of being a pedophile. Carry an ID and some money. I usually offer my drivers license to the most suspicious types. They never want to see it, though.

Some home owners are to be avoided. Learn those houses by memory.I walk on one side of a street to avoid an unpleasant person.

Birding skills not that difficult, unless you are doing a Christmas count. Learn two types of Chicadees. Learn House Finch female vs. other brown birds such as Song Sparrow.

In the US, cutting thru peoples yards is not allowed for adults.
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Old Saturday 31st July 2004, 18:02   #2
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Few years ago there was a Laughing Gull (a major rarity in Britain) over here in Newcastle - it spent most of its time perched on the roof of the Maternity Ward at the city's General Hospital

Often wondered what they thought about the line of long lenses pointing in that direction

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Old Saturday 31st July 2004, 21:41   #3
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Well, there is strength in numbers. The lonely scope is thought of more likely as some weirdo.
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Old Thursday 2nd September 2004, 04:12   #4
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Continued from opening post>

There are seasons of course in suburban birding. In January you can walk around and see what is coming to neighborhood bird feeders, many of which are visible to me. I also have two myself. In spring, migrant birds arrive. Soon after, you may see the the first pair of Mourning Doves with their copies of themselves, the first two clueless fledglings, on your lawn.

Nest building time is exciting, except for the sparrows that attempt to enter every tiny hole in the siding of my house. The first nest was interesting enough to follow, but they keep having more broods.

In early summer, lots of activity is to be seen. Perhaps a Blue Jay feeding on the remains of a featherless nestling. Mocking birds are prominent in my yard, and may sing at night. Robins nest in visible spots. You may get to rescue a nestling from the street to the side that you know the nest is on.

By late summer, things settle down. August may be a low point in lack of birds, except for prominent singing American Goldfinches, which nest late. To see birds, you have to get up early. Before work, if you wish to see them every day. Days get shorter, too. If you can think of someplace else to go on vacation, go now, as there is nothing here to miss. The birds may be hiding partly because they are moulting. Young grackles appear in a strange mix of brown and black feathers.

Fall improves things in that leaves fall, and you can see the birds better. But then the migrants leave. Juncos and White Throated Sparrows arrive, maybe Waxwings too. Daily birding becomes more difficult due to eight hours of useable daylight. Noon birding may be best in some areas. Saturday mornings work for me.

Starlings form great flocks in the area, but not so much in our suburbs. Grackles are more often seen in flocks a few times of the year.

Winter may bring some excitement with hawks, sitting there and after the smaller birds. A juvenile eagle may soar above, as we are not far from two major rivers.

Bird feeder activity resumes. On the coldest mornings, you may want to stay inside and just watch the feeder. You can write up your year list and prepare for January.

Suburbs that face fields, lakes, undeveloped areas have the best chance of having interesting birds. It is not unheard of to get a Pileated Woodpecker to come to a feeder in these types of areas.
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Old Friday 17th September 2004, 17:59   #5
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Went to a city park. It is suurounded an all sides by homes etc. It is a fairly large park. It has a lot of warblers. We have large parks out in the suburbs as well, 20 miles from this park, but they never get this number of warblers. They have tall trees out there too, but I noticed that tree species were different. This urban park is very much planted. Weeping willows and such.

Perhaps we do have the same number of warblers in the suburbs, but as the nature areas are somewhat connected, the birds are scattered over a wider area?

I have seen even turkeys out in the suburbs, so it is only these warblers that we have to serach hard for out there.
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Old Saturday 18th September 2004, 02:38   #6
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We have one particular park in Charlotte, a city park almost downtown, in an upscale neighborhood... in springtime during migration the number of migrant warblers here is unbelievable. Much more than in any of the suburban parks that I have frequented. I have tried to figure out why, and all I can think of is...
1. the small size of the park, as you said, concentrates the warblers;
2. not just many trees, but a large number of different species;
3. a shallow creek running through the middle of the park.

This past April I had some of the best bird walks that I have ever had in this park.

There was also a pair of barred owls nesting there.
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Old Tuesday 21st September 2004, 13:33   #7
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I looked at some guides describing birding areas here. Birds really are drawn to those green spots in great numbers, if they are in the middle of a lot of paved and built areas.
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Old Friday 1st October 2004, 13:20   #8
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Sporatic Cedar Waxwings have returned to the St. Louis suburbs. The suburbs have a lot of success drawing birds that eat berries and fruit, due to ornamental plants etc. I have some holly bushes. Not sure if they eat the berries right now.
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Old Wednesday 3rd November 2004, 15:00   #9
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I have had a chance to walk thru some parks and suburbs. My own subdivision, with only one road winding thru it, all others dead ends, does not give us a good area to walk and bicycle in. But it does give wildlife a continuous large area, as we connect to a park on one side (that we have to drive around out of the subdivison to get to!, no foot path). We have lots of animals, including foxes and deer. So our birds are of more variety than the typical suburb with rectangular blocks.

There are even a few streams thru the area.
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Old Wednesday 1st February 2006, 00:22   #10
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Did not listen to my own advice. Had one guy get in his car and chase me down, a block away and lecture and interrogate me. From the safety of his car. I may walk the round again, but only with one of my kids. A guy alone is suspicious.

Incidentally, if I did want to spy on his house, I WOULD SIT in my car and he would never find out.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2006, 12:39   #11
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It's a shame that being a lone male out anywhere is now suspicious.

I was birding a local park and made sure to stay away from the playground. That didn't stop some Ms. Nosy Busybody from giving me a hard time for being in a park with binoculars. I gave her a polite MYOB. She reacted by calling the police. It took the officer about 10 seconds to determine I wasn't a terrorist or pervert and I was on my way.

After the cop left this lady spent the better part of the next two hours following me through the park. I ignored her and had a good birding morning. On the way back to the car the same cop pulled in on a normal patrol. I flagged him down and told him about the lady following me. He told me to go to my car and drive away. He was talking to my "stalker" as I left the park.

About two weeks later I was reading the police blotter in the local paper. There was a little snippet in there about an officer issuing a written warning to woman for harassing park users. It was the same date and time when I was in the park. It made me smile.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2006, 12:48   #12
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Fantastic! That must have been hilarious.
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Old Saturday 4th February 2006, 15:59   #13
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I guess I'm fortunate that I've never had any real problems, as I do most of my birding in local parks. When I first started birding I used a pair of compact binoculars, and got some suspicious looks (but nobody ever complained or called the police). After I upgraded to a larger 8x42 binoculars the suspicious looks stopped, and if anybody approaches me it's to ask if I've seen any good birds. I guess with the compact bins it looked more like I might be trying to hide something.
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 21:28   #14
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Ah, Dan, maybe. But it could easily go the other way, big bins are seen as bigger "weapon", threat. You never know.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2006, 12:51   #15
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I was in a crowd watching a Rosy Starling in Andover when all of us were threatened by a large (in all directions) man who warned us against watching his wife dressing. It was a good warning as if she had been on his scale it could have been an unpleasant experience.

It was explained to him that we were only interested in the bird (someone might have pointed out there were fifty of us as well) and he returned to his house.
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Old Friday 10th February 2006, 08:51   #16
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The last couple of days I visited a nearby village to see a flock of redpolls (lesser and mealy) with a possible artic. It was on a patch of wasteground with a road all around, housing on three sides, two of which had tall fencing.

I did feel strange and a bit uncomfortable birding in such an environment, there were a couple of other birders about but they soon left. The local policeman drove past in a car and stopped to talk to me - he was friendly asking what bird I was looking for, he had come across birders and twitchers before, and said that just in case a local resident reported anything he knew what I was doing.

The next day a local resident came past walking a dog and asked "to you mind telling me what you are doing?'' although his tone was less pleasant, I explained to him which seemed ok but as he left he said ''what bird was that?''

I can understand that people are suspicious - it most seem odd that someone is standing around in the biting cold staring at a patch of rough ground with a pair of bins.

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Old Friday 10th February 2006, 09:42   #17
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It's things like this that make me glad to live in the countryside. Although, I live above an island that is surrounded by the Columbia River and it's slough, and there are boat houses down by the slough where I go. They might wonder what I'm up to, but nobody's ever said anything.
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Old Monday 13th February 2006, 13:17   #18
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A few months back I was on a field trip to the Toronto area. We drove up to a park to look for a Gannet that had been reported there. We were surprised to see a cop sitting in the parking lot. When we started to get out of the van, he opened his window and said, "Don't go back there. There's a guy with a gun walking around back there." We decided to leave, and go to another vantage point nearby. As we were driving, the same cop shot past us, with his siren and lights on. When we reached the other park, there were four cops talking to a birder with a scope. Apparently someone had mistaken his scope for a gun. We came to his rescue, and all ended well. We even got to see the gannet. : )
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Old Monday 13th February 2006, 13:33   #19
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when birding in urban/suburban environs and confronted by maloderous youths intent on stealing optics and causing bodily anxiety I always take the precationary/defensive measure of walking straight up to them and ask 'have you seen a pitbull terrier'? to which they invariably reply 'no' ... I then dutifuly warn them to not to approach it as it's a bit of a vicious beast .. hey presto, the illusion see's them vanquished from the immediate birding area ...

occasionally however one will be met with 'oh yeah, so what are you looking for apart from your dog?' to which a curt 'Chavvy's Warbler' usually suffices ...
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Old Monday 20th March 2006, 02:25   #20
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So far four people total have ever stopped me in suburban areas, besides kids who ask what I am looking at. Before that I did not have decent binoculars. Now I mostly listen to birds and take out the pocket bins only a few times. Two have been PARANOIDS chasing me down, 2 others were people who do back yard birding. I never actually see the people who put out bird feed. This is now 4 springs at this house in Western St Lois.
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Old Sunday 9th April 2006, 02:42   #21
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While walking from my house, I have now taken to using a pocket pair, and taking them out only to look, or keep inside my jacket. Took them out to confirm a Cedar Waxwing, a year bird. So the pocket models do come in handy.
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Old Sunday 9th April 2006, 09:45   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runaround
About two weeks later I was reading the police blotter in the local paper. There was a little snippet in there about an officer issuing a written warning to woman for harassing park users. It was the same date and time when I was in the park. It made me smile.
Made me smile too!

I don't have as many problems that you guys seem to - possibly being a female with a pair of bins around her neck is deemed less 'weird' or suspicious?
However, when I used to live in North Shields which is a very urban area, my main problem was the local gangs of chav misfits! They'd hang around in gangs outside shops or on street corners and it WAS quite intimidating walking past them! I used to make sure my bins were well hidden - partly to make me less obvious and partly so they wouldn't be stolen!
Nowadays though I live in a more countrified area next to the coast where there seem to be older residents ( no young yobbos!) who, when seeing you out and about with your bins, are more likely to smile and have a chat about birds and wildlife and what's about. MUCH nicer up here and i do feel 100% safer than I did in the towns.

Mind you, I do still feel wary of looking at birds when they are up on the roofs of folks' houses! I'll subtly have a quick glance and then bring the bins back down Luckily i haven't come across anything rare which would need a good long look and a description & sketch made of it! I'm sure I'd have the houses' residents coming out to see what I was up to then!
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Old Sunday 17th September 2006, 15:01   #23
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I have walked around our suburban streets with 8x25 roof prisms and then 8x40 porros. People are definitely more bothered by the big pair. They may imagine me looking through window or WALLS with these POWERFUL bins at their naked, middle aged, boring wife in the shower!
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Old Sunday 17th September 2006, 20:42   #24
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lost count of the amount of times i've been walking behind someone walking the dog (sometimes lone females or old folk) on a local footpath.

these days they have every right to feel intimidated,though most of the locals here abouts know me now.

when walking out of my usuall locale I still get that 'are you following me' type
of look.fortunately living out in the sticks I usually get the place to myself!

dont think the lady with the two massive rottweilers I bumped into this afternoon had any worries tho..I nearly dropped a bowel!

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