Bird brained stories!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I experienced something this morning I don't recall experiencing in almost 11 years. Eleven years ago, I was in Kenya, on the Buffalo Springs Reserve trapped in our LandRover between two mother elephants and their babies. Two pairs, each not more than 10 feet from either side of the jeep. Moving very slowly, watching as the curious babies' ears would quiver and trunks extend, we were told "No photographs." It was nervewracking enough, and the guide didn't want to add to the stress of the elephants any more than this foreign vehicle full of Americans had already stressed them. One of those moments seared into my memory, with nary a photo to show for it.

My experience this morning involved somewhat smaller, though no less threatening, parents---two pairs of Canada geese, one with four goslings and one with a whopping total of nine. One family on one side of the marsh trail, the other just across. There were many of us out for our spring bird walk, but most had moved on ahead to a shady area filled with warbler fallout. We'd spotted the geese heading for the banks and held back, wanting to watch the little ones. Up they came, to sighs of "Aw, aren't they cute?" They stayed. They stayed some more. They browsed in the grass, the little ones standing on webbed tippytoe to reach the seedy tops, flapping their tiny wings. The two families were no more than 10 feet from where we stood. Step any closer, they extended their necks and hissed. The morning light came streaming across, creating a wonderful, close family scene.

Too bad my camera battery was dead!

Of course it was dead. I was seeing all kinds of close and cooperative birds this morning. Common Yellowthroats, five feet in front of me, singing away. American Redstarts, though if truth be told, they were pretty flighty this morning. Swainson's Thrush, my catch for the day, all over the place. A lovely little Song Sparrow, right in front of me, filling up the frame. Best of all--a couple of quick but clear looks at a Virginia Rail, a bird we'd been hearing all morning but unable to call out.

Having a dead battery was disappointing under the circumstances, but I could hardly complain about the birding today. I was loaned a really nice set of binocs by one of the regulars on the bird walks, John, and what a nice optic. He'd followed this pair on ebay and was able to get it for about 1/4 of retail. I've been wanting to invest in some decent binoculars to replace these frustrating cheap ones we have, and I appreciated being able to try some different ones out. It's nice to look, focus quickly, and have the image stable. There is a tinge of regret that the last bird walk for the season is Thursday, as I won't be seeing all these knowledgeable people and getting such great education as a birder. I've been noticing something interesting about the avid birders I meet, either in person or on bird lists. It seems that birders are pretty funny people. Not the proverbial "funny weird," but "funny ha-ha." I suppose a sense of humor is an ingredient needed to have fun when you're out searching for warblers in a driving wind and rain. Still, in my opinion, a sense of humor is useful for almost anything one chooses to do, and there are plenty of people lacking one. I just haven't been finding that to be the case with birders. We can gently chide one another when what initially appears to be a great catch is nothing more than a robin. We can make all kinds of esoteric jokes about bird behavior that are hysterically funny to us, and Greek to anyone else. That's what makes them so fun! If you've any doubt about the sense of humor of birders, go read Sharon Stiteler's Field Guide to Bird Authors on her blog linked here.

I'm guessing that this tinge of regret is a sign that I should act on something I've been thinking of doing for a long time, and join the local Audubon chapter, the Coulee Audubon Club. As I type this, a pair of orioles have been holding forth all morning in my yard, and continue to do so--maybe a cosmic sign that my choice is the right one?

Birds spotted by me--there were about 30 of us, so I know there were lots more seen--

Yellow Warbler Palm Warbler Common Yellowthroat Northern Waterthrush
American Redstart Gray Catbird
Northern Oriole Red Winged Blackbird Yellow Headed Blackbird
American Robin Swainson's Thrush
Spotted Sandpiper Virginia Rail Great Blue Heron American Coot Pied Billed Grebe
Blue Winged Teal Common Mallard Canada Goose
Black Tern Tree Swallow Northern Rough Winged Swallow Eastern Kingbird
Least Flycatcher Chimney Swift American Goldfinch
Northern Cardinal Red-eyed Vireo Warbling Vireo
House Wren Song Sparrow Hairy Woodpecker Red Bellied Woodpecker


  • I love reading your blog :) And thanks for the great reminder about being prepared!!

    By Blogger Sue, at 5:18 PM  

  • Oh, no, Gwyn!! So sorry your battery was dead! I bet bird watching is fascinating, though! :)

    By Blogger Kathryn, at 7:54 PM  

  • so sad your battery was dead that day. i was so hoping to see those goslings.

    great point on humor. :D

    By Blogger doris, at 2:35 PM  

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