Who are our incredible volunteers? With more than 1000 Atlasers, it’s no surprise that once you get past the binoculars our volunteers are as varied as the bird species they observe. This series turns the spotlight on a few of the many dedicated men and women who are helping the Atlas achieve such tremendous success as we work our way through our second year.
This month, meet Anne Geraghty of Eau Claire County!
I’ve lived in Eau Claire for the last 20 years or so.
Number of years birdwatching:
A little over 10 years.
Other citizen science experience:
St. Croix Riverway Breeding Bird Survey
Nicolet National Forest Breeding Bird Survey
Sandhill Crane Count – with my dad
Swift Night Out – with my mom
Red Shouldered Hawk Survey – with my high school students
Golden Eagle Count – year 10 coming up!
Christmas Bird Counts in western Wisconsin
Grassland Bird Surveys in Eau Claire County
Stream Monitoring – also with my high school students
Whatever bird I just learned something new about.
Motivation to Atlas:
In 2012, I was convinced to start using eBird to record my observations. One reason was that it’s an important database for scientists, but the other reason was that I used the data myself and felt I should contribute back to something that was helping me so much. The Atlas is just a natural extension of that. Even before using eBird, I had purchased the original Atlas and found it to be an extremely useful resource. Now it’s exciting to be contributing to the second one.
Primary atlasing location:
I started out with the Eau Claire East block last year, since it was close to home and included a lot of habitat conveniently accessed by boat. I signed up for a second block this year outside Rock Falls.
Most interesting or memorable Atlas find:
It’s hard to say which is most memorable. It might have to be one of the unexpected ones, like birding my way down to go kayaking at Wyalusing and finding a Cerulean Warbler on its nest, or registering for my campsite in Washburn and looking up to find a nest full of little Merlins. But the best might be finding a Northern Mockingbird in downtown Eau Claire while at an outdoor summer concert. The next morning I was able to photograph it feeding one of its fledglings when I went back down in proper birding mode with gear.
Most rewarding part of atlasing:
Atlasing gets at the yin and yang of birding. On one hand, you want to find as many different birds as you can for your block, but on the other hand, you want to just stop and watch them to see what they’ll show you. It’s listing, but it’s also just being present with the birds. As everyone says, atlasing makes you a better birder: I notice more things in the field, and I look up more things at home. I had already started working on vocalizations, but what I’ve really improved on is habitat – knowing what birds to expect where.
Advice for someone interested in atlasing:
“Try it! You’ll like it!” You don’t have to be an expert. Your county coordinator and local experts will be happy to help you. And talk to non-experts, too. I’ve had residents in my blocks show me where they already know birds to be nesting. I spent an evening with one resident discussing the feeding behaviors of Merlins as I tried to figure out where their runs were ending up, and then he called me a couple of weeks later to tell me to hurry over with my camera because all three fledglings were sitting in a tree in his yard.