An Incentive Plan

From the Warbler Capital of the World, Kimberly Writes: Really good motivational speakers make a ton of money by finding ways to inspire people to live better and do more. At Black Swamp Bird Observatory where I'm the executive director, I am always trying to find ways to support and encourage the BSBO team, made up of the finest people on the planet. This group of people just "doing what they do" is enough to inspire me to give all that I can possibly give to birds and bird conservation. I'm also blessed with a husband who not only understands and supports my passion, but shares it---and then some!

But, at BSBO, a nonprofit with limited resources, I often find myself searching for ways to inpsire the staff. No one there makes much money and thankfully, none of them have aspirations of getting rich at this whole bird thing. Everyone at BSBO works super hard, and they overlook the challenges of a cramped workspace, a lot of "antique" office equipment (which is a nice way of saying, Crappy!), low salaries with no benefits, and putting up with me and my hyperactive approach to life. So what can I offer them as an incentives package? What kind of bonus could I give to keep them inspired enough to put up with all the icky stuff and continue to help share BSBO's mission to promote bird conservation through research and education...

Allow me introduce the BSBO Incentive Package: Magnolia Warblers come through Lake Erie Marsh Region (BSBO's "backyard") by the bucket loads! From the first white-spotted tail fan to the last, my eyes never get tired of worshipping Maggies! A few years ago, at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory's primary banding station in Northwest Ohio, we had a monster day, banding more than 1100 birds. I sat in one spot all day, banding nothing but Magnolia Warblers (MAWA in bander's alpha code) and American Redstarts (AMRE). When it was over, my official MAWA banding tally for the day was 391!

Using alpha codes is a great way to take field notes. It takes a while to learn them, but once you do, it makes taking notes much faster and easier. Here's a link to the alpha codes for Ohio Birds, courtesy of BSBO.

As you can see, I'm starting out with the basic level incentives package by sharing the more "common" warblers. Yellow-rumped Warbler is soon to be split by the AOU, so we'll get to start officially calling the ones in the east "Myrtle Warblers" again! Bird banders use the alpha code for Myrtle Warbler (MYWA). Myrtle's come through this area in massive numbers. There are so many, in fact, that some birders will eventually start to say things like, " Oh, never mind, it's just another Yellow-rumped." But, do me a favor. Even if you've seen a bazillion Yellow-rumpeds and you think you REALLY know this bird, I want you to close your eyes and describe the details of its plumage to me. Describe the finer nuances of its field marks. Now, don't cheat! Jot them down on a piece of paper if you'd like, but challenge yourself to see just how well you really know this stunning little bird. I bet you'll be surprised. And, the next time you see a "Butter Butt" as they're often affectionately called, you'll want to spend a little bit more time getting to know this little beauty!

Every incentives package needs an "awwww" factor, right?
Here's ours, one of my all-time faves, the adorable little Wilson's Warbler (WIWA). Awwww, isn't he just the cutest little thing?!

The Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA) is one of my favorites
because of the way it changes its look in the fall!
Check out page 319 in the
Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America for a peek at the CSWA's extreme fall makeover!
Ya gotsta love a bird with a nice fall eye ring!

The eyepopping Cape May Warbler (CMWA). know, I think this might be my favorite warbler.
Well, at least for today.
; )

There's something about a Canada Warbler (CAWA) that makes me whisper when I say its name. Oh look, a beautiful Canada Warbler... I'm not sure how to explain it, but something about this bird completely captivates me. Okay, maybe the
Canada Warbler is my favorite today...

Zee Zee Zee Zee Zee Zee Zoo Zee...
With their upbeat, buzzy song, Black-throated Green Warblers (BTNW) are always a good source inspiration! Here's a little bird banding quiz for you: Can you think of a reason why the apha code for this bird is
BTNW and not BTGW?

So, what does a nonprofit executive director do to motivate the team on the days when the copier is eating paper, the network drive crashes,
the UPS Dude doesn't come, the toilet won't flush, and everyone is feeling like the (EAKI) in the photo on the left looks?

I just remind them that THIS bird is part of the BSBO's world!

This is the BSBO Blackburnian Warbler (BLBW)
Incentives Package - Premium Plan!

And, lest you think we're only about warblers, here's my most favorite sparrow--at least in the looks category. I love the soft and sweet facial expression of Lincoln's Sparrows (LISP). Don't you?!

Yes, in the looks category, I love Lincoln's Sparrows the most. But the White-throated Sparrow (WTSP) definitely has it beat in the song category. Why? Check out page 358 in your Kaufman Bird Guide to find out the answer! ; )

So, these are just a few of the birds that inpsire us at BSBO.
I'd love to hear what birds inpsire you the most, and why?! Tell us here on the blog, become a fan of
BSBO on facebook and tell us there, or BOTH!! : )


  1. I have three inspiring birds. The first is the Scarlet Tanager. This has been my favorite bird since I was a youngster. My uncle, who gives me my inspiration for the outdoors pointed it out to me when I was about five and I have been loving it ever since. The second is quite common but I love it anyway. It is the Northern Cardinal. I have a very small backyard but every year we have at least two pairs nesting there. I could sit outside and listen to their calls and songs all day long. The third is quite common also and that is the Black-capped Chickadee. I love that I can go out in my backyard with a handful of seed and these trusting little souls will eat right out of my hands.

    Most of this will seem elementary to a lot of people and it very well may be but I can't mistake my inspirations for my aspirations. They are a lot larger

  2. Great little piece.............was wondering if Ohio still has Common Nighthawks nesting in it's Cities...they used to nest in Green Bay, Wi in the 1980's and before, now I haven't seen any in a decade...someone mentioned roofs of City building switched from gravel to black rubber where they won't nest!

  3. Hi Kim,
    You forgot my favorite: The Prothonotary Warbler. This bird has eluded me for the last 20 yrs. until I saw it at Magee last yr!

  4. :-) I can't wait to get up to the boardwalk and see all these beautiful birds--en masse! (They all inspire me...)

  5. Love it Kim! I must say, your incentive plan is great! I am sure your staff agrees... what is REALLY better than what you have to offer... not much in my opinion! I also agree from what I have witnessed that you and your team are the role models of the non-profit "bird" world! I am so envious! Lastly, thanks so much for posting the codes. Ironically enough, I just asked somebody this week where I could get something to learn the codes... my wish is granted!

  6. You and Kenn and all of the folks at BSBO are the 'birds' that inspire us!

  7. Thanks for all the great comments. (I'm a big fan of Kimberly's blog posts also!)

    Jerry, I'd agree with the Prothonotary Warblers being a real "incentive" here. Last year they were exceptionally visible, nesting at a couple of points very close to the Magee boardwalk, and we're hoping they'll put on that kind of show again this year.

    Anonymous, you asked about Common Nighthawks -- a number of cities and towns in northern Ohio still have good nesting populations. In our immediate area, they nest on the roofs of buildings in Port Clinton, Oak Harbor, Oregon (on the east edge of Toledo), Fremont, Findlay, and probably other towns and cities. American Crows (which may sometimes take the eggs or young of roof-nesting birds) are scarce in summer in this part of Ohio, so that may be a factor.

    Mike, I totally agree with your choice of inspiring birds ... a common bird can be an inspiration every day.

  8. Thank you Ken(from Anonymous)...crows never nested in the city here before 1980..also more gulls around...maybe that is cause of nighthawk demise...I wish they would do a Great Backyard(summer)BirdCount so I could see where species are nesting...why don't they??? Also used to hear Whippoorwills when I went fly-fishing into the night in NE Wisconsin, now haven't heard one in a decade!

  9. The bird that inspires me to keep birding, whenever life/health get me down, is the Northern Mockingbird. The nice thing is that we have them all year long here in TX, so we get to know them well. I feel they are one of the smartest birds. Their ability to mimmic other birds is great, but their ability to choose which bird to mimmic and when is the awesome thing.

    I have watched a Mockingbird sit in the top of a tree and let a flock of sparrows settle down to feed and then let out with his Red-tailed Hawk imitation and all the sparrows take off for cover. I know he's smiling when he does that......
    But, when the real hawks come round that same Mockingbird is right there displaying in the top of a tree taunting that hawk and looking out for all the other birds hiding down below.

    They aren't afraid of anything and they will fly right up and perch next to you. The courtship displays of the males and the territorial displays/fights are really something to watch!

    Mockingbirds are a Hoot and as I get older and have more bad days, I need a Hoot once in a while, to take my mind off things. I'm glad there's Mockingbirds.

  10. Last year, we did not miss our annual trip to Magee Marsh, despite my wife being 8.5 months pregnant.....she had a near collision with a pronothonary warbler (premium package if you ask me)!!!! The basic package includes some conveniently spaced bench, very convenient for all the pregnant birders!

    This year, of course, We will come again.....with our one year old son!!!

  11. Oh no! I just started birding and there's CODES? Heaven help me.

  12. I've been a birder for almost an entire week now, and already bagged a Blackburnian and a Magnolia. All right I'm hooked--now why aren't they in Oregon, where I spend my time? Huh?

  13. What - the staff want money? Working with you and Kenn should surely be enough... :)


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