Lately I have been reading alot about birdwatching becoming very popular. This resurgence is being attributed to the pandemic. It is a relatively cheap hobby. All you really need is a pair of binoculars and a identification guide. And you can do it without a mask if you stay away from crowds of people. There was even a report on one of the morning news shows last week about birdwatching in Central Park in New York. I don’t find it surprising that these stories are coming out now because we are in the midst of migration. The birds have gotten the internal signal to move, to head to the breeding ground. Up here in the northern Midwest it is just beginning because we lately have been seeing a lot of new waterfowl on the bay, the lakes, the rivers and in the marshes. In a week or two the first of the warblers will be hitting town. These are the little jewels of the woods and it is a thrill to see any. I find it is getting more difficult to locate these little guys and maybe it is not just because my hearing and quick visual skills are not what they used to be, it is also because there has been a great reduction in the bird populations. Loss of habitat and climate change plays a large part in this loss. I sincerely hope that with a new administration in the White House, with a more enlightened view on our environment, can help reverse some of the decline in species. But this also has to happen internationally. The birds do not recognize borders.
I also hope the interest in birdwatching by the average person will generate a concern in protecting the birds. Literally, anyone can do it. You don’t really have to travel very far either. Start with your own backyard. Having a few bird feeders would help. Yesterday I jotted down all of the birds I could see by just looking out my windows. Now I live in a rural area but a lot of the birds I saw hang out in urban areas too.
My list started with European Sparrow (of course), Robin, Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Cowbird, House Finch and Starling. Included are a few pictures I managed to get of my yard birds.
Then the really colorful ones arrived, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch and Cardinal.
Juncos are still around. We also had a Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker. We do get Red-bellied Woodpeckers almost daily but they were a no-show yesterday, as were some of the regulars like Mourning Doves and Chickadees. But we made up for their absence with a few new sparrows, Tree, Chipping, and firsts of the year… Savannah Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. Migration is the reason those last three are being seen.
And finally Wild Turkeys, way across the road in a field. All together we spotted seventeen different birds just from our windows.
So, sick of doing nothing? Sick of being inside? Get some binoculars and maybe even a camera and start looking for, and at, the birds. Make note of the field marks. For instance, a sparrow-like bird, with a white throat, black and white bars on his head and a yellow spot equals White-throated Sparrow. Take a picture or jot down those notes to look up later. Practice makes perfect. It is easy to social distance outside and even if you don’t see anything ( highly unlikely) you have gotten some exercise and fresh air. Heck, soon you’ll be keeping lists and texting your birdy friends for help identifying your latest sighting. It is fun and I know once you get hooked you’ll want to make sure the birds survive for the next generation to enjoy.