Kings Canyon National Park in California is just one of hundreds of shuttered U.S. parks and preserves. (Photo by the National Park Service)

If you’re in the U.S. and you’ve got good weather forecast this weekend, you’re probably looking forward to some birding. After all, we’re in the peak of fall migration. (Disclosure: the White-throated Sparrows and Brown Creepers have started invading Chicago this week, and on my morning rounds I spotted a first-of-season Dark-eyed Junco. So winter’s on its way!)

Just make sure your birding plans from now until Congress decides to stop throwing a tantrum are limited to private, municipal, or state-owned sites. Because the shutdown of the U.S. government has rendered national parks off-limits. (Although Fox News suggests an alternate way to “visit” them which does birders no good.) For what it’s worth, other federal lands that aren’t national parks (such as areas overseen by the Bureau of Land Management) may still be birdable. But there’s more than just disappointed birders at stake. As part of the shutdown, most park employees–the ones who monitor and care for wildlife, including birds–are furloughed.

And there are consequences beyond recreation. Nonessential employees of federal agencies whose work affects birds, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, are laid off. Projects are on hold, grant applications are in limbo, and dead eagles have to stay in wildlife rehabilitators’ freezers because there’s nobody at the National Eagle Repository to sign for them.

Good times, huh? Here’s hoping that wherever you’re birding this weekend, the habitat isn’t polluted and the rarities stay out of off-limits national parks. (Birders outside the U.S., you can commence ridiculing/pitying the rest of us.)

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.