Feathery connections

By Island Park News staff

Island Park News of Island Park, Idaho

Technology has enhanced one of our favorite pastimes — birdwatching. A few weeks ago, we noticed a finch at our bird feeders. This was long after the Cassin's finches that summer here had left for California. Upon careful scrutiny, including checking field guides, we discovered that this new visitor is not a leftover Cassin's. It's a house finch.

In all our birdwatching years, we'd never seen a house finch in Island Park. To be sure we were correct, we took a digital photo of our little guy and e-mailed it to a group of birdwatchers enrolled, as are we, in Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch is a Cornell School of Ornithology 'citizen science' program. Participants count the birds at their feeders for two consecutive days every week, November - April. The data is used to identify trends in bird populations across North America,

Within an hour of sending the photo, a dozen FeederWatchers had confirmed our sighting as a house finch. A few took the time to explain in detail how to recognize the difference between the two finches, and people also noted that it is quite odd that a lone house finch is here.

We have also had good luck identifying birds after listening to recordings of their songs on line, especially in spring when they are most vocal.

Whenever we interact with other FeederWatchers, we're always pleased to hear many of them say we live in a beautiful area of the country — a place many people dream of visiting some day, or of returning to if they've been here before. Most people are especially interested in how the trumpeter swans are doing. Although the swans seem common to us, they are in fact rare and birders want to add them to their lifetime list of bird sightings.

It's been great to make these connections through a common love of birds, and maintaining a FeederWatch site is a great way to make winter go by fast while learning about more about nature in the caldera.

Elizabeth Laden

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