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January 2008
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Bird RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance)
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Grandchildren
Posted by: Ken @ 4:05 pm

Our daughter’s family flew in yesterday from very cold Chicagoland, and our two granddaughters (ages 2 1/2 and 3 1/2) were absolutely thrilled to see green trees and the sparkling blue water of our “lago grande.” It was quite a change from snow and near-zero temperatures. They held hands and danced in a circle, singing, “Florida, Florida, we love Florida!” This morning they were up early, anticipating a walk through the neighborhood.

While they were getting ready, I checked my e-mail and learned that Rob Fergus, the Pennsylvania Blogger better known as BirdChaser has written a prescription for better birding. “Most people don’t eat enough vegetables, or fiber. They also don’t see enough birds. This year I’ve decided that I need my minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of Birds. For me, and for most folks in the Lower 48, a good Bird RDA is probably 20 species. It takes a little work to see 20 species each day, but it can usually be done.”

Our backyard lake is a natural magnet for birds, so I figured I could easily exceed his recommended RDA. I would start immediately. I walked out to the patio and right away was pleased to see an adult Bald Eagle on a nearby rooftop. For a few weeks in late November and December, two suddenly started visiting our lake and exhibiting courtship behavior. Neighbors also saw some eagles carrying nesting materials not too far away, so we presumed these eagles were local residents. However, we had not seen them for the past four weeks. This was a great start towards meeting my bird “RDA.”

The girls were thrilled to view the eagle through my spotting scope. It flew away after about a half hour, and we went on our walk. Even before we left I had added several new birds to my daily total: Boat-tailed Grackle, Rock Pigeon, Muscovy Duck (the latter not countable by American Birding Association standards, but hey, my “other” RDA includes a few synthetic vitamins!), Tricolored Heron, Loggerhead Shrike and Blue Jay. We were hardly out the front door before a Ring-billed Gull flew over.

The girls herded a small group of juvenile White Ibis across a neighbor’s driveway. Nine species in no time at all! Back at the house, the girls had fun feeding the patos.  

The older granddaughter, clutching a white feather, picked up a rock at the water’s edge and immediately saw that it was unusual.

She surprised me by saying “This rock is from ages ago.” Sure enough, it contained the fossilized shell of a scallop.

During a drive to a shopping center, I added an Anhinga, a Northern
Mockingbird, a Great Egret and an Osprey. Amazingly, as we passed a lake on the way home, we saw a pair of exotic Purple Swamphens grazing by the side of the road (another “synthetic” species). After lunch, several Turkey
Vultures sailed over the lake. A Palm Warbler hunted spiders on the
back deck, and Tree Swallows wheeled overhead. Only three to go to meet
my RDA.

It is getting dark, and now there is little hope. Where were the Little Blue and Green Herons, the Mottled Ducks, Mourning Doves, Vultures, Snowy Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants, the wintering Belted Kingfisher… all of whom seemed to be around every day? Here I sit, undernourished, on the first day of my quest for my Bird RDA. Ah, but I did get my “granddaughter fix!”

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