Monday, January 24, 2011

Bats in the Belfry

Not exactly.  This time its a hawk in the cupola.  Last week a hawk appeared in the farthest recess of the Library of Congress - 160 feet above the top floor in the very peak of the dome.  The librarians have recruited personnel from the Northern Virginia Raptor Center to usher the bird to safety outdoors.  No doubt they will get the job done.  There is very little that has not been studied about birds and there are millions of birders who would happily line up to help.  A U.S Fish and Wildlife study estimates that one fifth of all Americans are birdwatchers.  The Ornithology Lab at Cornell engages 200,000 citizen-scientists every year in research about nesting, seed preference, disease and migration.  Each winter 60,000 dedicated birders brave snow, sleet and really awful weather to pay $5 apiece for the privilege of participating in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  2010 was the 111th annual count.  The Library of Congress reports that business is up since the hawk's arrival with eager birder's training their binoculars for a closer look.  The consensus is that the hawk is a female Coopers. 

Television network CBS discovered the American passion for birds when they used dubbed bird songs as background during broadcasts of PGA Tour events.  Viewers complained - lots of them.  They pointed out to CBS that the Canyon Wren, a resident of Western North America could not possibly have sung at the Buick Open near Flint, Michigan.  Likewise, the White-throated sparrow would have been far to the north on summer breeding grounds when its song appeared at tournaments in Louisville, Kentucky and Akron, Ohio.  The Library of Congress' hawk may attract visitors from oversees who call themselves "twitchers" when they travel long distances to check (or "tick") a bird off their life-time list.  I'd stop in, too if I were there.

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