Sunday, April 25, 2010

A "very" interesting birding coincidence

For the past few years I've been observing Prairie Warblers along the fringes of the Indiana University cross country (XC) course. Among other things, there's been a singing male in the exact same location three years in a row.

I was interested in learning more about Prairie Warblers, so I went to Cornell's "Birds of North America Online". In reading the BNA entry on Prairie Warblers I learned that Nolan's "Ecology and behavior of the prairie warbler (1978)" is considered THE reference for Prairie Warblers. As the BNA entry notes: "The Prairie Warbler (D. d. discolor) was the subject of a long-term study near Bloomington, Indiana (Nolan 1978), which is the principal source for this life history."

Curious about the Bloomington reference, I found a copy of Nolan's monograph. In comparing a map in Nolan against Google Maps, I was surprised to find that the present-day IU XC course lies within the boundaries of his original "University Farm" research tract. Nolan's study began in this area in 1952, but later had to shift to a tract closer to Griffy Lake due to the construction of the IU golf course. Nolan stopped studying these birds in his original "University Farm" research tract in 1956, due to habitat destruction.

It's kind of cool to know that when I'm out on the XC course listening to Prairie Warblers, I am standing in the same area where Val Nolan stood as he began his study.

If anyone is curious, here's the citation for Nolan's monograph:

Nolan Jr., V. 1978. Ecology and behavior of the prairie warbler Dendroica discolor. American Ornithologists' Union, Ornithological Monographs 26:1-595. (Available online at:

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