I never really thought about birds much. I remember my mom would always take notice that Spring was upon us when the robins visited our Buffalo area home each year. We would also travel occasionally to an area called the Alabama Swamps which was a layover for Canada geese on their annual migration - there were thousands of them!
That was my “birding” experience. Then Melissa and I moved to Sapelo Island, GA. We had the beautiful marsh for our backyard and miles of undeveloped beach. We began to see egrets, ibis, wood storks, black skimmers, oyster catchers, plovers and the grand-daddy of them all, bald eagles. We slowly learned their names, characteristics and migration patterns.
We appreciated the beauty and diversity of so many bird species. It was always cool to see a flock of migrating birds that would only be there for an hour or so to fuel up for the next leg (or wing) of their journey. It was amazing to see fledgling eaglets in the nest or their parents soaring overhead. Or the beauty and daintiness of a trip-colored heron hunting in the marsh.
Since living and gaining our bird appreciation on Sapelo Island, we are now always on the lookout for birds, especially at our home in Asheville and during our travels abroad. We’ve seen blue-footed boobies, penguins and Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos. Golden eagles, hairy woodpeckers and magpies in Colorado. During our three weeks in Costa Rica so far in 2019, we’ve seen several species we’ve never seen before, as well as dozens of old friends.
And birdwatching ties in nicely with my photography hobby - in fact some of my biggest electronics investments are my camera and a serious telephoto lens for reaching out through the jungle. There’s nothing like seeing movement in a tree, focusing on the spot and discovering a brilliant blue dacnis, or a summer tanager.
We were on a guided bird hike a couple of years ago here in Costa Rica, and another couple with us were preparing for a “Big Year.” A big year is a birding competition where people race all over the world to see the most bird species in one full year. Its crazy, but true. These folks could tell the minutest differences between very similar bird species that we never would have seen.
And we’ve learned so much about birds. For example, toucans are cool right? But did you know that they eat the babies and eggs of other birds? We’ve seen it happen! And did you know that hummingbird beaks are adapted to the shape of the flowers and plants that provide their nectar? The red-capped manakin is amazingly fast and when its trying to woo a mate, it does a “Michael Jackson dance!”
Yes, I know, birds can be a pain sometimes - the poop on my car all summer can attest to that! But there’s so much more to these amazing creatures that have a gift that so many of us would love to have: flight. Take a moment the next time you’re outdoors to listen and watch. Get a bird book for your region and keep it handy. There’s so many cool birds just outside your window, it would be a shame to not acknowledge them!
Here are a lot of bird photos (I tried to limit it, but there’s just so many beautiful ones!!! Clicking on the photos will bring them up full size. I have not watermarked the photos, so please do not use without my permission!