I profess to a love of watching and listening to birds. I enjoy studying their behaviors and identifying the different species I see throughout the year, marking the seasons by their migrations, and seeing the next generation take flight. Observing the natural world offers therapeutic relief from the stresses of the human world and replenishes my spirit.
I’m not a The Big Year type of birder, spending countless dollars and vacation days jetting off to bird hubs just to get a glimpse of different species (this would only add to those human stress factors). I hang feeders in my yard with various types of bird favorites and watch them come and go. I listen to the cardinals, goldfinches, sparrows and blue jays as they swoop in and out for lunch or extended snacks. I drive around the lake looking for ducks, eagles, and sandpipers or along county roads looking for hawks, turkeys, and meadowlarks.
When I’ve seen all I can see from my car and when the weather warms to a reasonable temperature, I take more deliberate outings walking the streamway trails and footpaths that make up the recreation system in our county. Away from noisy roadways and the congestion of people, birds are abundant. With my binoculars or camera in hand (I can’t carry both at the same time), I can spy the smaller varieties of feathered critters hiding among the trees and prairie grasses. With over 250 species coming through or residing in Eastern Kansas, I find a few new species each year that I haven’t seen before.
For birds outside my local area, I catch them on trips I’ve already planned for the family. Driving east or west, I may be able to spot hawks and songbirds along fences and at rest stops. Since we’ll be heading to Maine this month, I’m looking forward to finding some particular species I’ll never see in Kansas, such as puffins and storm-petrels.
I’ve been lucky this year to capture some of my observations with my camera, including the ever-elusive pileated woodpecker who swooped onto a utility pole while I just happened to be nearby. Birders know how exciting it can be to finally spot the one bird you’ve been looking for!
So far this year, I have over 70 birds on my yearly list, including several new varieties. And exciting as it is to find those new ones and the old favorites, the true joy of bird watching is just knowing they are out there and taking the time to listening to the natural chorus they sing.