Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oh, the Birds...

My mom has been an avid feeder and watcher of birds for many years now, so I credit her for inspiring my interest in avian life. I bought my first bird feeder at the Birdwatchers Store in Slippery Rock, PA, during my initial semester of graduate school and brought it home to Liz in an excited state, ready to see what species we might attract. We hung the feeder outside of the kitchen window in an area where the birds would feel protected and it didn't take long for them to start flocking to it.

We had droves of House Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, and Purple Finches, along with a few Cardinals, Blue Jays, White-breasted Nuthatches and Goldfinches flying in for a meal. We even had a few woodpeckers—both the red-bellied and downy varieties—who never failed to entertain, but the collection pretty much ended there. I looked for new species often, excited about being able to identify unfamiliar breeds, but I found myself waiting in vain by the window most days.

Now that we've moved, an entirely new bird world has been opened up to us. We still have the same old feeder—several of the familiar varieties visit it often—but I find myself hoping that I will gaze out the kitchen door to find some strange bird staring back at me, or that I might catch a note or two of an unusual birdsong that I've not previously heard. In the short time that we've been living here, we have been privy to several species that we likely would not have seen in Pittsburgh, including Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a personal favorite. A recent trip to Amherst, MA yielded this distant photo of a Red-tailed Hawk:

Perhaps most intriguing was the Golden Eagle that I spied on my way to work a few weeks ago. What a thrill! We've also spotted several other species that we've yet to identify.

Seeing these few birds may seem insignificant given the hundreds of avian varieties flying around out there, but they've been more than enough to pique my interest. Next weekend we travel to the White Mountains, a birder's paradise, for my birthday and I suspect that the trip will allow me to add to the list of species I've sighted. Hopefully, I'll be able to snap a few photos to share. At the very least, I'll have the guides and binoculars handy, prepared for the next glimpse of some of nature's oldest and finest fauna: the birds.

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