Word around the birding community is that the new movie release (the Big Year) will encourage more interest in bird watching. I don’t know since it is about relatively competitive people traveling all over the world in a rather “manic” way to find rare birds. Personally I like to see birding as not causing so much use of jet fuel and to be a source of peace and wonder rather than listing.
However in meeting people from all over the US and even the world that come to this area to bird there are many ways to enjoy this hobby. I recently took out a woman from Little Rock who was here for a conference. She always arrives a day before the conferences to see the local sites and to go on a guided bird watching trip. So we went to Pittock Mansion, to Fernhill wetlands and my back yard in Cedar Mill! She said she greatly enjoyed seeing our backyard birds. This was from a woman who has gone to 47 countries to watch birds, has a very long “life list” and travels in the US extensively on business. So our area in fact is “very birdy”. While it’s wonderful to travel it can also be a great trip to see what is in your own back yard.
Her goal in the US was to see 100 birds in every state. We made it to about 89 that day—it was a rather slow day for migratory birds. On some other day getting to 100 in a day would take some movement to different habitats such as water areas compared to forested areas but is very possible.
She saw the most birds in my back yard. This time of year the bird life pretty much “turns over” from the summer residents to the winter ones. Some birds pass through but most of them are coming from the north to stay for the winter. Others like our Rufous hummingbirds left in mid September for places further south to rest and feed before coming back here in the spring to breed.
Some of my biggest “finds” this fall have been in the sparrow category. Most people think of sparrows as little brown non-descript birds that lurk around under bushes. True but also missing a lot of variety if one really watches them. As I was cleaning out some garden foliage I noticed a small brown bird digging with both feet vigorously, which is odd. This bird was kind of jumping up and down while digging which most of our typical sparrows such as Song Sparrows don’t do. I looked more closely and it was a Fox Sparrow—much darker with some reddish on the tail feathers and definitely very streaked. This behavior, which was distinct, was my clue to look more closely. Often in migratory flocks of sparrows one can see several different types. Our Golden Crowned Sparrows are returning for the winter. Their rather plaintive and sad calls can be heard around my yard now. I can see flashes of their very golden head coloration—more so on older birds than those newly hatched ones. The White Crowned Sparrows also tend to either come through this area on their way south or some stay the winter. Very rarely we get other sparrows for a day or two. I had a White throated one in my yard for about two hours—not long enough for my husband to get a picture so it’s just in my own memory!
Similarly a Lincoln’s sparrow hung out in our yard for a few days to feed before continuing on his journey to the south.
So however you like to see birds is great. Make long lists—travel extensively—sit in your living room looking out while knitting—any way can take you on a pleasant “journey” away from daily cares. Who knows maybe you can see 100 birds in one day! See how many you can find….