The Bird Meme: Day 6

Day 6: A bird that makes you sad


Most birds make me pretty happy, though certainly some make me happier than others. At the same time, there is very definitely one bird that makes me sad because it hasn't had the chance to make me happy in a long while: the Bobwhite.

When I was younger, Bobwhites were not at all hard to encounter, and even if you didn't see the little quail, you stood a pretty good chance of hearing its eponymous call. As it was for many birders (and many Southerners), the bob-whiiiite whistle was one of the first birdcalls I learned to identify, and I often heard it in the fields and piney woods of central North Carolina. Every so often, you'd get a look at the white stripes on the head of the male as he trotted back toward cover, and if you were really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of chicks trailing after their parents. They were familiar, homey birds, and I took them for granted.

I didn't know as I was growing up that they were disappearing.

Some recent reports of Bobwhite populations have them declining by as much as 85%, almost all of it due to habitat loss. The hedgerows and overgrown areas that used to separate small fields have vanished as those fields have been sold by family farms to large corporations, or the fields and hedgerows alike have vanished as suburbs and strip malls push out into the countryside. Whatever has happened, however, my own logs back up the idea of massive population declines. I saw a couple of Bobwhites in 1997 on the grounds of our house on Grelen Farm, but that was the last time I saw one without going out in search of it. I did hear one--once--from the yard when we lived along Route 15 (2008-2015), but even with our massive grassy lot and plentiful cover, not a single quail ever showed its face.

In fact, since I began keeping year lists in 2004, I have logged a Bobwhite on only a handful of occasions:
--in Cape May at the New Jersey Audubon Society's 2004 Spring Fling weekend
--in Virginia's Rappahannock River Valley NWR in 2005, right after I logged my first Blackpoll Warbler
--in June 2006 when one flew over Route 15 near Green Springs, VA
--in August 2009 along Route 15, a little further south, near Boswell's Tavern

And that's it. I haven't seen or heard a Bobwhite in eight years, and I have grown pessimistic about ever seeing one in my yard again. At this point, I'm not terribly optimistic about ever seeing one period. And that's enough to make anyone sad.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 17, 2017 8:04 PM.

The Bird Meme: Day 5 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Bird Meme: Day 7 is the next entry in this blog.

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