For the birds

For the birds

I like noticing birds wherever I am, and birds are almost everywhere. I’ve tried to learn the basics of birding, but I’m a total beginner, and last Saturday was the first time I ever went birding with a group of people.

It was the first Saturday bird walk at the Ivy Creek Natural Area, an event I’ve heard announced on WTJU literally for years, and have always wanted to check out. (Perhaps I’m not a born birder if it takes me most of a decade to actually show up somewhere at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.) Anyway, it was great. My husband and I brought the two pairs of binoculars we are lucky enough to own (a bird walk would be quite frustrating without them) and found the group of about 10 people already gazing at a hermit thrush.

I did not take this picture, but we did see cardinals.

Somehow I’d pictured the walk being led by a single person, who’d point out birds and deliver brief lectures on them ("Notice the hairy woodpecker, which breeds in blah blah blah…") It was actually a lot more anarchic than that. Anyone could point out birds they’d spotted and identification happened in a collaborative way.

That said, we contributed almost nothing to the process, since we possess a tiny sliver of bird knowledge compared to almost everyone else who was there. I’d still be focusing my binoculars and someone else would come out with, "There’s a towhee! I haven’t seen one of those for two or three Januarys!" We learned a lot, and taking an hour and a half just to spot wildlife was a good way to reconnect with the fact that a lot of living beings—25 species of birds on this walk alone, according to one woman’s count—are out there trying to survive.

Then, last night, we were in Lowe’s and I heard a bird calling from up near the roof. It must have gotten inside, as they’ll sometimes do in big-box stores; this one wasn’t "out there trying to survive," but inside trying to get out. And then there is this sad story about a snowy owl, off course from its usual northern habitat. And then there was the bird that flew right in front of our car this morning.

It’s good to visit "natural areas," but it’s also important to recognize that we intersect with wildlife all the time, even right in town. It’s all the same planet, deserving of our care.

I’d like to hear about your wildlife encounters, especially ones that happen in populated areas. Stories? Thoughts?

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