Speed Birding

Most of our National Wildlife Refuges, Conservation Areas and large nature preserves are accessed by a network of graveled roads which permit close observation of the component habitats and their wild residents.  This provides an excellent opportunity for wildlife study and photography and experienced birders know that, by using their vehicle as a blind, they can observe and identify species at close range without spooking their quarry.

The roads also permit speed birding, a style utilized by those individuals more concerned with finding rare species than immersing themselves in the ecosystem.  Racing through the preserve, these veteran birders quickly identify birds by their silhouettes, plumage or behavior; ignoring the common species, they slow down only to check out unusual or unexpected birds, perhaps taking a photo for documentation.  After completing their tour, many contact their local birding society to report on rare species; for them, birding is a sport and keeping their names on the register is a means of scoring points.

Fortunately, most birders actually enjoy watching the birds and some of us are more fascinated by their roles in the ecosystem than by their individual presence.  With all due respect to the speed birders, those who take an interest in the landscape, plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects as well are, in my opinion, more likely to devote themselves to protecting our natural ecosystems.  After all, birding without experiencing the sounds, smells and feel of the birds' home environment is a rather sterile endeavor.