Being a bird watcher is a fun hobby for many people | News, Sports, Jobs
Although I didn’t always think so, it doesn’t take much to be a birdwatcher. We come in all shapes and sizes. The 8-year-old next door to me is an ornithologist, as is Lycoming Auduboner, 78, who lives in the next block.
Their knowledge and skill levels can be very different, but both have an interest in learning more about birds and their behaviors, and both enjoy the sights and sounds of the avian world. If you have that, consider yourself an ornithologist.
Once you start birding, it’s hard to stop. You will see and hear birds everywhere. In no time, the cardinal’s song in your garden will become familiar. You’ll recognize the difference between male and female American Goldfinches, and you’ll start filling your bird feeder with thistles for these beautiful seed eaters. Hang a suet cake or tie one to a tree to attract fluffy woodpeckers.
One day you may notice a slightly larger woodpecker that looks like a downy, but it has a longer beak. It’s a hairy woodpecker.
And if you’re lucky, your suet might attract a brown vine. Other easily identifiable birds that will come to feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds are the tufted chickadee and white-breasted nuthatch, and of course, the iconic black-capped chickadee. The chickadee calls its own name, and when I play its vocalizations in Lycoming Audubon children’s programs, invariably a youngster blurts out, “I know that bird!
To broaden your birding experience, go for a walk. If you frequent the River Walk in Williamsport, watch for a small diving duck with a white spot on its big head. This is the male Bufflehead, a migratory species that spends the summer breeding season in Canada, but winters in our region and much of the southern United States. Invariably on the River Walk, binoculars around my neck, passers-by want to know if I’ve seen a bald eagle. And since there are several easy-to-see nests along the river, that’s a very reasonable question.
But there are also other birds of prey to see. Saw Peregrine Falcons flying from their nesting site on the Market Street Bridge. Saw an Osprey fishing out a fish from the water just below the dam. These experiences don’t happen every day, but as your birding becomes more intentional, you’ll find yourself looking for birding hotspots to visit, and you’ll be rewarded with new ones. bird watching experiences, sometimes rare.
One of my favorite hotspots in Lycoming County where I live is Rider Park. Most of the time I survey the fields and edges while checking bluebird nesting boxes, and it’s not hard at all to see and hear 20-30 different species. One morning I walked up one of the forest trails and was rewarded by hearing and seeing a black throated blue warbler. It’s not a rare bird, but it’s still striking to see, especially for someone whose knowledge of warblers leaves a lot to be desired.
As my birding skills developed, I came to recognize that birding by ear can be as enjoyable as seeing a striking tanager through binoculars. A good birding friend of mine describes the chirping of a wood push as “God’s Music” and I can’t disagree. Although I don’t see them often, somehow it’s good to know from their vocalizations that there are large crested flycatchers hanging around.
Learning to distinguish the songs of copycats like the brown thrasher and mockingbird can be challenging, but also rewarding. One of the great tools to help you learn bird calls and songs is Merlin, an app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Although I still have a lot to learn about birds, their behaviors and their habitats, I owe a huge debt to my friends at the Lycoming Audubon Society for their welcoming attitude and their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences with me during of recent years. I learned so much.
So, with the fall migration season fast approaching, I encourage you to contact your local Audubon chapter and join them for a bird walk.
You won’t be disappointed with the new friendships you’re sure to form, and the knowledge and skills you’ll most certainly acquire.
Good bird watching, birdwatchers.
Bruce Buckle is a retired educator and vice president of the Lycoming Audubon Society.