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Urban Jungle

January 5, 2011

Detroit conjures up a lot of images in the minds of most people. You might have to be lost in this line of thought for some time before “birding hotspot” occurs to you, if it does at all. The general apathy for birding and bird research in urban areas has worked in my favor; the lack of competition unintentionally paved the way for my career studying urban ecology, especially that of birds.

It’s not like avifauna is missing here. Out of Michigan’s 438 bird species, Wayne County, where Detroit is located, weighs in at around 340. Dearborn, where I work and live, is adjacent to Detroit and the tenth largest city in the state. It is the hometown of Henry Ford and his massive Rouge automotive complex, once referred to as a “cathedral of industry” and a symbol mass production. I’ve documented 256 bird species in Dearborn. With about sixty percent of those occurring annually, there’s plenty to keep an avian researcher busy.

Other taxa are equally rewarding. Although Wayne County has lost over ninety percent of its historical wetlands, in the last decade my husband and I have found over 40 new dragonfly or damselfly species for the county, including a number of state records. In our small yard, we’ve photographed over 80 species of bees and wasps, including one undescribed species and two that hadn’t been previously recorded for the state.

I’ve lived within 20 miles of my Detroit birthplace my whole life. I’ve spent a good chunk of my years exploring the local patch. And I’m never at a loss for things to discover.

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