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Friday, July 29, 2011

BIRDING

BIRDING

Could there be a geekier hobby than Birding?  Tromping through the woods, the fields, or the shore, binoculars in hand, Audubon book in the back pocket looking for birds.  What a giant waste of time.  They’re just stupid birds for crispy sake!  And yet I am guilty of being a closet birder.
I never kept a log of birds I have seen, but I am keenly aware of birds and I am always looking for a new species.  I inherited this interest from my mom.  Mom was not an expert, but we had a book, “Birds of North America,”  that was always handy.  If one of us spotted a new bird we would run to the book and try and identify it.

There were always plenty of sparrows, flickers, crows, grackles, starlings cowbirds, robins, blue jays, tit mouse, and hawks.  There are several types of hawks.  I really only know the red tail hawk.  If I see a hawk I identify it as a red tail.  I am right 90% of the time.  The cardinal was the most beautiful of the common birds in our neighborhood.


Less common were blue birds, gold finches and the evening grosbeak.  My favorite was the cedar waxwing.  Looking like a little bandit with a black mask and a cute top notch they only showed up in the spring to feed on the red berries of a nasty thorn bush in our back yard.  The waxwings come in a flock, maybe 50 birds.  They all land and take off as one.  It is fascinating how they time the process much like a school of fish.

The one bird I most wanted to spot and never did was the scarlet tanager.  The size of a robin, brilliant red with black wings it was the prettiest bird in the book.  They live in the north east, but apparently they prefer deep woods.  I never saw one or even knew anyone that had seen one.

A few years back on a fly fishing excursion with Frog and Catfish (see fishing with Frog) we were driving along a winding road on the West Virginia side of the North Potomac looking for a spot to drop in to the river for trout fishing.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of brilliant red.  “Tanager” I shouted excitedly.  I thought these two avid fly fishermen would not give a hoot.  I was wrong.

“Where” the two screamed in unison as Frog stood on the brake.
“Ten yards back.” I responded surprised that anyone else gave a darn.

Frog slammed his SUV in reverse and sure enough up on a branch as colorful and magnificent as in “The Book” was a scarlet tanager.  It did not move and neither did we.  When it finally did fly off, we followed.  For fifteen minutes we followed and gawked at that bird until he finally flew deep into the woods out of sight.

I thought I was the only “Birder” in my circle of friends.  It turns out Frog and Catfish were also in the bird watcher closet. 

I caught one small trout that three day weekend.  Frog caught about twelve.  Catfish doesn’t even count.  About thirty he guessed.  But I was the hero of the trip. 

I spotted the scarlet tanager.

Thx to Lou "Waiting to Emigrate" For endorsing "Maybe It's Just Me!"


18 comments:

  1. I love birds, too. They are beautiful creatures (unless they are trying to grab your 2.5 lb toy chihuahua; then, they aren't cute--until the next day when dog is safely tucked in the house).

    My Dad accompanied my on a 2007 Gulf Coast fishing trip near Port Aransas. The winds blew us off the water, but the guide pointed out several bird species to Dad, and then we got to see a late-migrating Whooping Crane. I caught no fish that day, but it was a great one!

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  2. I am a terrible 'Birder' too. Here in the UK I am pretty well up on most of the birds in my area, but now I jave a new set to get used to, and I have to say that I am so excited about the Hummingbirds. S had bought me a feeder for them which he put up when I arrived in SM the other week, but there wer eno signs of an hummers. I bought and planted flowers that I knew they would like, but still no hummers. S told me he was sending out good vibes for them to come before I left, but I was giving up hope..then last saturday evening (my last night) as we sat on the back porch, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and there it was a beautiful tiny hummer - I was lost for words and just sat bolt upright and pointed and stared wildly. S thought I had lost the plot until he looked where i was looking and saw the tiny thing..I sat for the next hour, camera in hand waiting for it to come back so I could get some photos of it.

    S says it comes in every day now..can't wait to get back to see it again!

    Lou :-) x

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  3. Mr. cranky, anything else in the closet we should be aware of today. Is this addition by subtraction?

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  4. Mr. Scott...er...Anonymous Expect a post sometime in the near future

    "My Wife Is Making Me Gay!"

    Cranky

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  5. Joe, thank you so much for sharing this post. It is so much my family thing! I, like you, agreed with your opening paragraph and then continued to agree with every one that followed! I also grew up with the North American Birds book that literally fell apart from its heavy use. I also identify all hawks as red-tail and am very often right. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness for the link to my hop. You are a stand-up guy. (But, I may skip over the gay post ☺.) I'm so happy your are such a faithful part of my hop. I always look forward to your stories.

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  6. I love to watch birds too. Earlier in the week I was sitting by a lake watching a heron fish from the top of a huge pine tree, truly amazing!

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  7. very beautiful bird. I can't tell one bird from another in reality, gutted. :(

    Xxx

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  8. How great that you found the tanager. I've never seen one, but I would probably mistake it for a cardinal if I did (my eyesight is pretty lousy). I was not predicting that the other guys would be into it either. That must have made the trip that much more special. Thanks to linking up to my "Scene from a Memoir."

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  9. I've seen one too, but I don't recall where. Have you ever seen a cow bird? My husband and I saw some of those while traveling in the Northwest one time. Good grief they make a horrible noise!

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  10. Great pics. And thanks for the education! I'm useless with birds' names. Visiting from the Weekend Rewind.

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  11. Ah! Now you are showing your age Crabky! A twitcher! Who'd have guessed? Congrats on your superb spotting prowess :-) Thanks for Rewinding x

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  12. Admit it! You made up Flicker and Grackle.

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  13. LOL, A Flicker is a large bird, a wood pecker common in the No East US it has a speckled pattern on its back and a red triangle patch on its head, not a top notch like Woody. The Grackle is larger than a robin, smaller than a crow. It is mostly black and rather ugly except when the sun hits the feathers and creates a plesent purplish color.

    Cranky

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  14. Very, very interesting, Mr. Cranky Old Man. I never knew that much about birds until now.

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  15. We live 7kms from the CBD of Sydney and in our back garden (pocket handkerchief sized) we have spotted such delights as kookaburras, sulphur crested cocktatoos, powerful owls, doves, galahs and unfortunately lots of noisy mynahs, who try and steal our bunny's food.

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  16. My brother-in-law is an avid "birdie" and we still speak to him (just joking)

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  17. I LOVE birds. I had a handbook as a child too. I remember on a school camping trip where we could choose between 3 activities, one of which was bird-watching, I was quite anxious that it would "fill up" before I got there, so I raced to the line - there were just three of us.
    All geeks of course.
    Love the photos here.

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  18. Thanks for pointing me to this post. You're right; I did enjoy it!

    You know what I like best about my newfound interest in birds? My kids are inheriting it, just like you did from your mom. Both my boys are always pointing out new birds for me to take photos of.

    I hope that when they get older, they will remember how much fun it was to spend time in the rainforest looking for new discoveries, and I hope they pass that joy on to my future grandchildren.

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