Birding while driving

So not only do I do a lot of birding while walking around town, I also tend to keep my eye on things when I’m in the car.  You just never know what you’re going to see.  Granted, it can be challenging to get ID’s on the little birds when I’m driving, though some things have such distinctive flight patterns that they stand out.  It’s usually preferable to bird this way when I’m on back rounds.  When driving dirt roads in parts of the desert in California, I was more than willing to slam on the brakes for a Burrowing Owl.  The interstate is a different story.  Moving at speed can make the identifications more challenging.  Raptors, though, are usually pretty easy, especially if they’re soaring.

As a demonstration, over the weekend I went camping with some students.  Driving down I-85, near the Spencer exit (#76), there’s a big power line tower.  Fluttering near the tower were two large raptors.  I could see them from quite a distance, and they remained in place as the van approached them.  As we got closer, I could make out a distinct sort of bend in the wing as they flew and realized that it was a pair of Osprey.  I was able to see what looked a nest on the tower, too, though I couldn’t get enough of a view to tell if was completed or in progress.  At that speed, I just saw sticks.

I’ve seen a number of Osprey nests before, but none in such a modern setting.  In many places, they use platforms that have been erected for them.  I’ve seen them make use of old, dead trees and trees without much foliage, but never such a tower.  Apparently, though, it’s not so uncommon.

Bolen, E.G.  1995.  Further evidence of nesting adaptability in Osprey:  Nest atop a 61-meter television tower. Journal of Raptor Research 29:  284-285

Like Peregrine Falcons, Osprey seem to be doing a good job of taking advantage of many different kinds of nesting opportunities.  The tower certainly gives them easy access to the Yadkin River (handy for a bird that eats fish) and probably makes charging their portable devices much easier, too.

Even in the car, there’s fun birding to be done.  And yes, we made it safely to our destination, too.


About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
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