[mou] Satisfying Birding Experience (long, maybe too long)
sweston2 at comcast.net
Sun Jan 27 12:20:30 CST 2008
I have had so many rich experiences, I will try to touch upon a few.
While birding in northern Minnesota in an area that I had never been, I left
the car by the side of the road to follow a trail into the woods. The
trail, apparantly used by local duck hunters and perhaps fishermen, ended at
a marsh. I had to crouch under a bush to view the marsh. I pish to call
something out of the reeds, but I only attracted forest birds. Turning
around I pished in about a dozen birds, mostly warblers, all conversing
intimately with me from the bush under which I sat only four to ten feet
Even better are the experiences that are shared. Birding with a stranger on
a fall warbler day, I pished, held out my hand and a chickadee landed. Then
there is the time I brought a friend out to find a Prothonatary Warbler,
which he had never seen. We went out to a pond with dead trees in the water
by a railroad track. It was quiet. Figuring that the Prothonatary, a
cavity nester, would be antagonistic to a Screech Owl, I whistled its call,
and a bright drop of sunshine flew in to a tree twenty feet away. It gave
us a long examination, before flying off. I don't think either of us
brought our binocs up.
Sometimes the experience is remote to the birds. I love taking kids out
birding. I teach interactive birding. Bird watching is fine, but talking
with the birds is far more interesting. There are few birding experiences
more satisfying than having a young scout introduce me to his friends, as
"Bird Guy" or something like that, and show me that in the last year he has
been practicing pishing. Anytime I can infect someone with the birding bug
is rewarding. I remember on a Christmas Bird Count three years ago taking a
couple of high school students with us. their science teacher recruited
them by promising extra credit for participants. I always start the day on
this count by heading to a park. As we pulled up to the entrance, I spotted
a pigeon sitting at the peak of the silo at the farmstead, now park
headquarters. Training my binocs on the bird, I realized it was a hawk, and
I suspected that it was the Gyrfalcon that had been hanging around the area.
Everyone got a good look through the scope and a better look as it flew by
at eye-level not fifty feet away. With almost our first bird the day was
already monumental. We threw the scope back in the car headed into the park.
We then grabbed the scope and headed to the bluff to scan the Mississippi.
The river was teaming with waterfowl with gulls and eagles as spectators
along the ice. A quick scan and I found an atypical gull with no black on
the wingtips. Everyone got a good, though distant, view of a pure white
Iceland Gull. In their first hour of birding they had gotten two of the
most desirable birds in North America. Later the teacher reported back to
me on their excitement.
Oh, there are so many more... the call of a loon at night, the Saw-whet Owl
that answered my whistle when I took the garbage out in a snow storm, the
nesting Great-horned Owl with its four young, the Hummingbird on a nest, the
twelve species of hummers swirling around as I sat trying to sort them out,
too many warbler and not enough eyes, finding a Piping Plover in the pond in
the industrial area.
It is too nice out to be typing and I hear my binoculars calling.
Steve Weston on Quiggley Lake in Eagan, MN
sweston2 at comcast.net
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