As we pass the one-year anniversary of the arrival of Covid-19 in the U.S., it is a good time to reflect on how it has affected the birding world that so many of us enjoy. Unlike many aspects of our daily lives, the pandemic has had a largely positive effect on birdwatching.
Even as we struggle to find opportunities to interact closely with friends and loved ones, many of us are rediscovering the joys of being outside safely and noticing the activity of seemingly higher numbers of birds. Some may argue that spending more time at home, isolated from others, explains why we are perceptibly more aware of the birds around us. As one of the few activities that have intensified against the backdrop of the pandemic, birding has really taken flight. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has reported that downloads of its free birding apps, Merlin and eBird, have shot up greatly. In fact, Merlin downloads soared 102% in the past year. Over Easter weekend alone, during spring migration, the app registered 8,500 downloads. Audubon’s free digital field guide has seen comparable increases during the lockdown.
Birding retailers have noted sustained growth in seed and feeder sales despite the overall economic downturn. Audubon Society of Omaha’s 40th annual bird seed sale marked massive sales gains in October, buoyed by touch-free pickup, which accommodated Covid-19 concerns. Sales of binoculars and feeders have increased as well.
Not all of the social distancing and other Covid-19 precautions have been positive, however. At ASO, we have had to respond by limiting in-person birding field trips, restricting in-person attendance at educational meetings and, for the first time in many years, canceling our popular Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to moving those monthly educational meetings to the Zoom platform, we have continued to attract roughly the same number of participants as we draw to our in-person gatherings. Another plus: our Zoom meetings allow us to reach out to presenters with internet connections anywhere in the country. In March and April, be sure to join us for a program conducted by Rick Schmid from his retirement home in Stillwater, Minnesota and Scott Bradley, Audubon Society of Omaha.
ASO welcomes newcomers to birding — a hobby (passion) that transcends pandemics and offers the joys of observing many of the most wonderful and accessible species in all of nature.