Monday, January 11, 2010

A Stanley Bird Journal, 1971-1983

Last week, The Nature Conservancy's Idaho field office received via mail an interesting notebook from 83-year-old Betty Jo Olson of Twin Falls.

Betty was doing some house cleaning and thought we might be interested. Her little notebook details all her bird sightings from 1971-1983, while living in a trailer in Stanley.

She certainly saw a lot of birds, from Audubon warblers to ouzels to golden eagles. She documented when birds like sandhill cranes showed up in the spring, and how long birds like towhees hung around her place.

On an Audubon bird count, she even saw loons on Redfish Lake.

Her notes were sprinkled with colorful descriptions of bird behavior. For instance, here's an entry on a pair of bluebirds: "The female has asked him over to the new house several times, but he seems to want the swallow house. I can hear her saying: I want a 'new' house..."

Betty wondered if her notebook would be of any use. Do such observations help conservationists?

Actually, personal observations of birds and other wildlife are playing an important role to help document population trends, occurences of rare species, appearances of new non-native species and the effects of climate change.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology counts on observations from thousands of individuals for its Project Feeder Watch and the Great Backyard Bird Count (mark your calendar; this year's count is from February 12-15). Both track long-term trends for bird conservation.

Today in Cool Green Science, the Conservancy's Dave Mehlman shares how birders are being asked to help track sightings of the imperiled--and little studied--rusty blackbird.

Conservation biologists can't be everywhere at once, so observation from citizen-naturalists is a tremendous help.

We always value hearing from nature lovers, friends and members. If you have something you'd like to share, contact the Idaho office nearest you.--Matt Miller

Photo Credit: Cephas under a GNU Free Documentation License.


Charles Swift said...

Shirley Sturts of Coeur d'Alene manages the Idaho Bird Distribution project ( and would probably be very interested in these sightings.

Robert Mortensen said...

I often tease "old-school" birders that have their personal birding diaries because that information is basically locked away and doesn't benefit science. Thank you Betty-Jo for proving me wrong and I hope more people are like her.

I am a big proponent of Cornell and Audubon's free eBird service online. I submit my daily birding checklists there.

How timely that I found a Rusty Blackbird in my neighborhood right when a couple of articles come out about Rusty BB study eforts.