Birdwatching: Knowledge on the wing

Various people think of it as boring, but birdwatching i like diving into another world. When I was younger and not so concerned with bills and other matters of adulthood, I loved to take long walks. The best places were in the woods, where you could be alone with everything around you, especially the birds that were everywhere. This, in turn, caused me to become even more interested in what kind of birds were around me, and it has since turned into a favorite hobby of mine.

Unfortunately, adulthood finally took hold, and what comes with it sometimes gets in the way, but nothing relaxes me like sitting back and watching the birds by my front porch, especially when I can be so close to them. Later on that whole thing got a name I found out. It is called birdwatching.

The good thing about birdwatching is you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money, unless, of course, you want to. I will admit I get a bit carried away at mixing different seeds together, along with suet cakes for the winter (the suet cakes are great for winter feedings; you can even make your own!) when food is more difficult to come by. Bird baths, bird feeders, even a small feeder for oranges, jellies, and meal worms are available. With all of these, or even one or two of these (and ALWAYS clean water), you can count on attracting several song birds to your feeders.

My favorites are the hummingbirds, that are known to hover by a window if they see you when food is getting scarce. They drink their fill from the nectar that you put out (not to mention different flowers that may be nearby with their own sweet cache of nutrients). One summer I had 13 hovering between two nectar feeders! It was an amazing birdwatching experience.

As for birdwatching without as much effort, it’s a good idea to get a good bird ID book and some binoculars. You definitely want to shop around for your binoculars; depending on the brand and all the features, I found they run from $20 to $5000. Personally, unless it’s your job to count the birds or you’re someone that has to have the best, you won’t need an expensive set. Spotting scopes are handy when you need to just wait for that sighting you’re just dying to get. Also, it’s good to keep track of what you see, like info on the gender, color variations, etc, when and where you saw it, and, of course, a picture would make the experience complete.

Taking off for the day and following your state’s birding trails is always a good way to spend the day. Just be careful and don’t go where there may be hunting or on someone’s private property.

Here are some examples that will hopefully whet your appetite for knowledge;

  • Shrikes will catch insects, other birds, reptiles, and amphibians and impale their prey on the closest thing they can find that is sharp, like a thorn or a barb on a fence. Here they can can pull off small bits of flesh if needed.
  • Killdeer build their nests on the ground and will run away from the eggs when it feels something is too close, acting like it has a broken wing.
  • Many mating pairs will take turns in feeding their young, while other males will leave forever. Some are mates for life.
  • Cowbirds will lay their eggs in other birds’ nest so that a bird or birds have to raise it.

You can train birds, even hummingbirds, to eat out of your hands. It takes patience and usually hours of being still with your hand out, but the rewards are priceless.

A great site to go to to learn all about birds, and even listen to their calls, is the library of a University (especially Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, as they even have a yearly bird count you can get involved in).

If you love being outdoors, and you haven’t discovered the joy birds bring, trust me, you won’t regret birdwatching. Enjoy!

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