Birding boom

Bird-watching has surged in popularity this year. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, birders set a world record May 9 for Global Big Day, an annual bird-spotting event. Participants using the lab's eBird platform reported more than 2 million observations — the most bird sightings documented in a single day — and recorded 6,479 species.

Spring is always a busy season for bird-watching, said Marshall Iliff, a project leader at the Cornell lab. "But this year is sort of off the charts," he said.

At a time when humans are nervously tracking the spread of a virus as it seeps through communities and leaps across borders, new birders are finding relief in tracking the migratory patterns of great blue herons, mountain yellow-warblers or ruby-throated hummingbirds instead.

For Layla Adanero, who was working as a business analyst in Manhattan until she was furloughed in April, bird-watching has been a respite from the faster-paced life she left behind when she moved back home to London.

Now the chirps and coos in her backyard, once ignored as background noise, have become clues to understanding an entire ecosystem.

"It's quite meditative to watch another life form go about its day," said Adanero, 23.

Corina Newsome, 27, an avian expert and graduate student of biology at Georgia Southern University, said the coronavirus lockdowns coincided with spring migration — the perfect time for new birders to look to the sky.

Amateur sightings are useful to scientists, too. Amateur birders can contribute to global databases like eBird at Cornell, which helps biologists and conservationists track bird populations and migration patterns.

Jacey Fortin, New York Times