An Amateur Birdwatcher's tally
I can't say that I ever get bored wild bird watching. However, I learned that there are ways to spice up my bird watching/dog walking experiences by taking my 11-year-old niece. Talk about energizing. That young lady has more experience in excitement than I can remember having at that age.
While attached by leash to Maggie, my niece scampered across grass happily as they followed my dogs’ nose on a hunt probably first squirrel. She balanced along the end caps of parking spaces. She contemplated climbing trees. She hopped from rock to rock. It may have been more exercise than my fat little Maggie has had in months.
It was my turn to walk Katie. Katie likes to march with an occasional amble. Squirrel chasing isn’t on her agenda. Climbing on rocks and end caps isn’t on mine. My niece asked what it would do if I could fly up to the top of a tree that had a flat place on it. I said I would be able to see more birds. She wrinkled her nose. Boring.
Having an eleven-year-old enhances my imagination. What animals have lived in that hobbit hole in the tree? Katie would fit perfectly inside it. But Katie wasn’t interesting in checking it out. Maybe it smelled bad. My niece described birds she was sure she saw with identifiers of “orange and pink with a curved beak and blue eyes!” Her list would place her in South America or somewhere exotic. Then she got excited over a wren – a little brown thing that sang a pretty song for her.
But I am enjoying planting seeds of knowledge and interest in her and my 13-year-old nephew. At every opportunity I point out birds and try to name them. My nephew has a joke that crows are double winged double blackbirds. Guess that is his way of naming them. I don’t mind the humor – it’s not mean, just silly. Maybe I should point out that I get my names from books and websites. I think he already knows.
Really, why do we care what birds are called? I like the old T.V. show MASH. One episode has Radar, a young corporal who loves animal, correct a Major about guinea pigs verses hamsters. “Who cares?” Major Burns snipes. “They do.” Radar snaps back.
No, I don’t think my chickadees care what I call them, if I don’t call them late to breakfast. But they are distinctly different from sparrows and juncos and starling and hummingbirds. It matters to me. Between 10 and 11am I can be sure when I look out my window, I will see mostly chickadees. Later in the morning and early afternoon is lunchtime with the sparrows, who also like bath time in my bird bath. Scrub jays swoop in around 2pm and send everyone off to naps. My yard is then quiet for a while.
Oh, the energy of my niece! Or a bird. I read this week that millions of birds have vanished. The art of birdwatching will be different for the youngsters of my family. But I want them to enjoy it on some level. It’s important. On my recent venture I saw a kingfisher, a wood duck, a kestrel, a field of robins. Mallards serenely floated on the marshy water at Flaming Geyser. I heard a wren that sang a pretty song.
An open window led to a temporary invasion which upturned my bird watching for a few moments. Luckily, the invader was a honeybee and he did not sting me. Whew. He flew away.
It was a hot day and we had the air conditioning on. But with the window closed, we could not hear if birds were in the bushes. So, I rolled the window down. My visitor just wandered in. I squished against the seat as he inspected me for any good pollen. It’s been a while since I held my breath so long!
There were no birds. It’s August. Birds are sparse. Yes. I have a small parade in my yard at the feeding stations. First come the chickadees. They move so fast it’s hard to catch them with my camera! “Dee dee dee.” They announce. Friendly – no alarms. After a while they are replaced by house sparrows and sometimes other sparrows. This set of about 15 birds like to dine and indulge in the simple bird bath.
Scrub jays rush them off – officious and seriously they land where they want to be, and all other species should get out of the way. In a way the scrub jays remind me of my cat Alex. He’s a big, gentle bully. Where he sits, he fits. Scrubbers are the same. My yard is a birding paradise, not fancy but happy.
For my expeditions in this hot summer month, I have found few birds to watch or photograph. A kingfisher delighted me at Flaming Geyser Park. A very distant hawk did well though a professional would scorn my attempt.
I went to Auburn Environmental Park for the first time in years. I did a review on it sometime around 2010 when it first started. Wow! It has grown. It is less than a block of ecological delight. The rules sign was covered up by echinacea plants. But I know one rule – no dogs. Which is why I don’t visit often. Maggie and Katie weren’t with me. So, I took 10 minutes to explore. I found no birds in the middle of the day. Bummer. But I might return sometime. It looks delightful.
I posted a few more pictures to my birding gallery. Check them out.
I love birdwatching. It's relaxing and fun. Even though I've been birding for over 10 years I classify myself as an amateur birder. I plan to write a blog a week about my experiences. Hope you enjoy them!