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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Wing'd XXVIII: The 2-Minute Bird Walk

Posted by | April 2, 2014

Mornings, driving in, Laudholm welcomes me. I loop in to park, take two bags in one hand and binoculars in the other, step out, push the car door shut, and lock it. Already I'm attuned, scanning, panning the landscape, listening for caws and chips.

The entry walk, heading past the kiosk toward the big barn.Most days I'm rewarded. It's a long walk from the parking lot to the farmhouse door and the reserve is famously rich in bird life. With its grassy expanses, ancient hedgerows, mixed woodlands, and the estuaries just beyond them, it's a rare day when no bird moves or speaks during the pedestrian part of my commute.

Four weeks ago, I added a twist to my routine. Every Wednesday, I'd measure my walk — both length and time — while logging each avian encounter. Then I'd submit my checklist to eBird, where it can be stored and shared.

March 12

I get out of the car and after just a few steps a pileated whoops it up in the woods. Nice start.

I approach the kiosk, taking in the native garden, hoping to catch motion, alert for scratching in the litter, but I detect nothing. The first 100 feet of my walk is complete and I'm moving on.

Three caws across three fields equal three crows. Then four starlings go by, cruising toward the house, as I reach the walkway fork, 200 feet in.

My cheeks curl perceptibly when a blackbird flies by, that anticipated, red-winged messenger here to greet spring. My smile gets extended when a cardinal sings what cheer! Whistle away, fella, I'm with ya!

I've doubled my distance by the time I reach the asphalt nexus in front of the barn and veer right for the home stretch. It's a quiet final hundred feet, but as I ascend the steps and reach for the knob two house sparrows break the silence. I go in, check my stopwatch, and close the door.

Twelve birds of six species over 500 feet in 2 minutes.

Song Sparrow by Cephas. Derivative work: Btr (Song_Sparrow.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia CommonsThree More Walks

The second week I get stalled at the kiosk. Something's flitted into the native plant garden and it takes a minute to find a song sparrow skulking under a shrub. The morning is pleasant, though, and more notes are in the air — chickadee, titmouse, bluebird, cardinal — so I end with 8 species (but the walk takes a full 5 minutes).

For my third walk, on this spring's first Wednesday, it's frigid, breezy, and one of those rare zero-bird days. For late March, that's an insult.

Over the next week, we collectively crawl out of our long, harsh winter and this morning the birds are back. I count 11 individuals of 9 species in 4 minutes door to door. Not bad, but I look forward to birdier days to come.

My data is now all on eBird, mingling with the observations of others who have entered findings in the remarkable app. Next time I'll talk more about that citizen-science system and the wealth of Wells Reserve data available there.

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