Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ENV: This is a joke . . . right?

Watchers circle rare bird
Eurasian collared dove spreading across country
By Ike Wilson, News-Post Staff, Published on August 16, 2006

FREDERICK -- A Eurasian collared dove spotted at Stadler Garden Center is drawing birdwatchers far and near.
A chance to see a bird that is not native to Maryland made Steve Sanford's trip from Randallstown worthwhile, he said.

Mr. Sanford said Tuesday he heard about the Frederick spotting from the bird alert Web site operated by Maryland Osprey, mdosprey.home.att.net.

The Eurasian collared dove, originally from Asia, is new to the United States. The bird found its way to the Bahama Islands in 1975, spread to Florida and is expanding its range across the country, according to Wild Birds Unlimited Inc. (www.wbu.com).

Christy Morales, a Frederick bird watcher, said the dove is out of its range and uncommon in Maryland.

"Everyone called me, because they know I love birds," Ms. Morales said, binoculars in hand.

A customer at Stadler Garden Center heard the bird call Saturday and determined its sound was different, said Suzanne Smith, sales clerk.

Ms. Morales said the Eurasian collared dove has a distinctly different call. It's a little larger than a morning dove, with more gray coloring.

"Its flight is more pigeonlike, kind of like a hawk," Ms. Morales said.

Birdwatchers are a close knit community, and they take their hobby seriously, Mr. Sanford said.

"To me, it's a little like stamp collecting. Instead of collecting, you enjoy seeing different birds. It's like hunting without killing," Mr. Sanford said.

"It's like a treasure hunt," Ms. Morales said.

Many birdwatchers keep a list of the birds they see.

"We call it our life list," Ms. Morales said.

"And it's a sense of accomplishment when we can add something new," Mr. Sanford said.

Mr. Sanford said he's amazed at the number of young people who are taking up bird watching. Some of the sharpest birdwatchers are in their 20s.

"They've got the good eye and energy to look for them," Mr. Sanford said.

Bird watchers don't mind traveling long distances, he said.

The farthest Mr. Sanford has traveled was to see an Ivory gull in Nova Scotia, Canada. But the bird left the area before he arrived, Mr. Sanford said.

Bird enthusiasts help researchers figure out the ranges of the feathered friends, Mr. Sanford said. The more eyes helping to figure things out, the better, he said.

Seeing a non-native bird in Frederick is exciting, Ms. Morales said.

"But it's also sort of a bad thing. It means that the Eurasian dove is kind of invading the area and threatens to compete against the native birds and perhaps drive them out," Ms. Morales said. "Will they be eating the same food and taking over the nests?"

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