I and the Bird

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bird Question!

A sighting of a rare Townsend's Warbler posted on MDosprey on March 11 got me athinkin'. This bird was seen and identified (and beautifully photographed) one morning at a park in Montgomery Co., MD. After that first viewing, however, subsequent visits to the park could not relocate the bird.
I started thinking about how rare it was for this bird, normally of the west coast, to turn up in Maryland and how rarer still it is for someone to have found it. My question is, then, how many of these rare wanderers are not found? How many Townsend's wablers end up in the yard of a non-birder or someone on vacation instead of someone who watches their feeder? I would venture a guess that only about 10 percent of out-of-place birds are caught. What do you think?
I think that more extralimital birds are here than are seen by birders, and there are more seen by birders than are reported. (I know many birders who never post to Osprey or similar lists.) I am not sure that the number reported is as low as 10% though; this area is pretty thoroughly birded.
I agree that DC is very thoroughly birded (check out the GBBC results), but I still believe the vast majority of birds slip by. The rails at Occoquan, for instance, are year-round residents of the swamp, but are seen only by a few of the many birders who visit. If a several birds at a popular, reliable location can go unseen for days, what chance does a single bird at a random location for a short period have of being seen?
Makes me wanna read about birds, so I can recognize them.
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