Jamie Drake Do some bird watch­ing Satur­day

Maryland Independent - - Sports -

Even be­fore I be­came an of­fi­cial out­doors writer with this news­pa­per, wild birds in­ter­ested me.

A squir­rel-proof bird­feeder was a house­warm­ing gift from my dad when I got mar­ried and that bird feeder pro­vided hours of en­ter­tain­ment for my fam­ily over the course of many years, un­til it fi­nally wore out and had to be re­placed. When my first­born showed an in­ter­est in watch­ing the birds at the feeder, I dusted off an old pair of binoc­u­lars and bought a ba­sic color-coded bird guide so we could fig­ure out ex­actly what we were look­ing at.

Truth­fully, back then I knew only the most com­mon birds like car­di­nals, goldfinches and robins. At first, al­most ev­ery bird looked the same — small and brown. Their dis­tin­guish­able fea­tures didn’t seem very dis­tin­guish­able to my novice eyes, but over time I got bet­ter at iden­ti­fy­ing them and pretty soon could eas­ily tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a tufted tit­mouse and a nuthatch.

When we par­tic­i­pated in our first Great Back­yard Bird Count, I con­fi­dently sub­mit­ted our tally of birds on­line and then took a short quiz af­ter­wards so the Audubon So­ci­ety could as­sess the level of my iden­ti­fy­ing skills. That was a smart move by the Audubon So­ci­ety be­cause based on my quiz re­sults, our sub­mis­sion was prob­a­bly deemed un­re­li­able. My con­fi­dence started to fiz­zle out af­ter the third or fourth ques­tion. It was em­bar­rass­ingly clear I didn’t know as much about birds as I thought I did, but a decade of prac­tice has sharp­ened my skills quite a bit.

Lately I’ve been spend­ing even more time than usual out­doors and I’ve seen all sorts of birds that I’ve never seen be­fore. When the for­sythia was bloom­ing, a flock of cedar waxwings spent a sev­eral days eat­ing the blos­soms and some left­over holly berries in my neigh­bor’s yard.

On one rare sunny day this month, when I was plant­ing toma­toes in our gar­den, I heard a cat me­ow­ing and turned around to see that the noise was com­ing from a cat­bird on a pole in our rasp­berry patch. And my ex­cite­ment couldn’t be con­tained as I whooped and hollered for my 5-year-old daugh­ter to come see the stun­ning male rose-breasted gros­beak eat­ing meal­worms at our feeder just last week.

A few years ago we got a movie from Net­flix called “The Big Year.” It’s a pretty funny movie star­ring Steve Martin, Owen Wil­son and Jack Black, who are am­a­teur bird­watch­ers vy­ing to be the top birder of the year. They race around North Amer­ica, from Bri­tish Columbia to Ore­gon to Attu Is­land, Alaska, try­ing to out­wit and out­ma­neu­ver each other to rack up see­ing the most bird species in a year. I’ll prob­a­bly never get the chance to travel to re­mote places to do any se­ri­ous bird­watch­ing like the guys in the film, but this year is al­ready shap­ing up to be my big­gest one yet.

Maybe you are in­ter­ested in the birds in your yard or have a young­ster at home who would like to do some bird­watch­ing with you. This up­com­ing week­end would be a great time to start. The Cor­nell Lab will be host­ing its sec­ond ever Global Big Day on May 14. Over 6,000 dif­fer­ent bird species were recorded world­wide last year.

It works the same way as the orig­i­nal GBBC that takes place in Fe­bru­ary ev­ery year. Bird­ers pick a lo­ca­tion and record the dif­fer­ent types of birds seen and how many. Don’t re­count the same chick­adee that makes mul­ti­ple trips back and forth from the feeder, just count it once. The amount of time you spend watch­ing is also sub­mit­ted with the tally. If you are feel­ing es­pe­cially help­ful, weather con­di­tions are ap­pre­ci­ated by the sci­en­tists com­pil­ing the re­sults.

To par­tic­i­pate and sub­mit your ob­ser­va­tions, go to www.ebird.com. Per­son­ally, I’ve down­loaded the ebird app on my phone,

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.