I have been reading and very much enjoying three books by Frederik Sjöberg, a Swedish naturalist, cultural columnist and translator with a particular interest in hoverflies (*details at the end if you would like to read them – I recommend them all but in particular “The Fly Trap”). His books are more random memoirs than about wildlife, in which he diverges frequently and interestingly on the trail of long-forgotten Swedish naturalists and artists. In the third book his particular focus is on Gustaf Eisen who started his long life as a taxonomist and the world’s foremost expert on earthworms and ended it as a famous art historian. In this latter phase he lived, with a cat, in an apartment beside Central Park in New York spending his evenings learning to read cuneiform writing and his mornings walking in the park feeding birds. I was struck by the following paragraph written by Sjöberg:
“His mornings were spent, as usual, in Central Park. He knew over a hundred squirrels as individuals – by name – and we can assume that their friendships were mutual. He must have been one of the real characters of the park and clearly highly respected as such, since we are told that the park administration hired a limousine every spring to drive Eisen around the park so that he could point out the trees in which they should fix new nest-boxes. What more can a man ask for?”
Indeed. That would suit me very well as an epitaph,
There’s Big Days, Big Years, Big Sits and a dozen other challenges, green or traditional, that allow birders to pit their skills against each other … there are also plenty of birders who are just not competitive and who shrug and wander off into the woods pishing quietly to themselves and that’s fine. At the same time, there are also birders who would perhaps like to have a go but don’t have the time or energy it takes to get organized and do the thing properly for a whole day or year.
Enter the Big Foot Hour … also known, for obvious reasons, as the Sasquatch Hour (thanks Jane for the alternative name).
This idea was devised by the good people at Bird Protection Quebec as part of a suite of green birding challenges they are issuing to ALL Canadian birders during the “Canada Goes Birding” (“Canada célèbre les oiseaux“) phase of their centenary celebrations in 2017 … and if you haven’t heard of this yet, you soon will. It’s infinitely adaptable, however, and something any birder can do any time simply for the interest. It brings some focus to our walks in nature.
Simply put, to perform a Sasquatch Hour you just set off walking, anywhere you like, for 60 minutes and count all the species of birds that you encounter in that period. That’s it. Minimal planning, minimal scouting. Just an hour’s walking, tally up your list and go off for a beer or a coffee with your friends.
You don’t plan to take part in “Canada Goes Birding” during 2017? Not an issue … do a Sasquatch Hour simply for your own interest and pleasure. Share your count on Facebook or your blog or keep it to yourself. It’s an enjoyable way to sharpen your skills, keep score and to set yourself a personal target. Choose your day, your hour and your location to suit your local birding conditions and to maximize your bird list. That’s all there is to it. What could be easier?
AND … There’s a good chance if you are reading this that you submit sightings to eBird or some other citizen science venture. You undoubtedly have a favourite personal birding patch that you visit often and study. So why not do a regular, say weekly or monthly, Sasquatch Hour and use it to keep track of the birds on your patch or walking route through the seasons and around the year? Standardizing the counts in this way makes them more meaningful.
Do a Sasquatch Hour in 2017 and then tell us how you get on.
A policeman saw a truck driving down the road with the back full of penguins. He pulled it over and, not getting a satisfactory explanation from the driver and being concerned for the welfare of the birds, suggested that the driver take the penguins to the zoo “right now!” The driver agreed that was a good idea. Next day the cop saw this same truck going down the road with the penguins still in the back but this time the penguins were all wearing sunglasses. He pulled the truck over again and said,”I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo.” The driver smiled at him – “Yeah, that’s right, thanks for the suggestion. We went and we had a helluva good time. We’re going to the beach today!“
Some years ago this domain (www.greenbirding.ca) was the home of a site promoting the virtues of “Greenbirding” which in essence was and is the idea that we probably don’t have to add yet more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere to see lots of good birds. A small, but important, idea which many birders follow to this day by leaving their cars at home and using their feet and cycle wheels in pursuit of birds around their birding patches. In time it became evident that once the idea was out there, a formal grouping of greenbirders with their own forums and website really wasn’t necessary. The sort of people who think this is a good thing are the sort of self-motivated conservationists who can get themselves organized … and anyway, they were and are all far too busy writing their own Greenbirding blogs!
So Dr. Bigby (coincidentally sharing the name of the challenge that has become known as a Big Green Big Year, or BIGBY) wandered off to look at birds on his patch, while retaining ownership of the domain “just in case”.
And now, a few years on and thanks to a superb web hosting deal, we are back … but this time simply as the good Doctor’s personal blog. Somewhere to ramble inconsequentially on matters mostly conservation-associated but not exclusively so. Birds will feature prominently. You do not have to be a birder, green or otherwise, to find something interesting here .. at least, that’s the hope.
For now, let me draw your attention to three excellent Greenbirding-related things:
The Green Birding book … if you haven’t got a copy yet check it out here (print and ebook formats)
For Canadian birders – the “Canada Goes Birding” green birding contest being organized by Bird Protection Quebec as part of their 2017 centenary celebrations. This is for birders throughout Canada – bird for an hour, a day or a year and prove that your province has the best birders. Details here (English) et ici (Francais)