On birding...

On birding...

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!

Melissa took this bald eagle picture the first week we lived on Sapelo Island

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.

Golden-hooded 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!

Red-lored parrots

Red-legged honeycreeper

Blue-footed boobies

Painted bunting

Purple-throated mountain gem female

Tufted titmouse

Great egrets with mating plumage. These birds were nearly hunted to extinction for their feathers which were used for hat decoration.


Angry baby bird. Not sure of the species…


Grey-headed chachalaca

Female jacobin

Montezuma oropendola

Gray necked wood rail

Golden eagle

Bald eagle


Tricolored heron


Snow geese

Laughing falcon

Huge tom turkey near our house in Asheville - taken by Melissa

Scissortail fly catcher

Great blue heron

Black crowned night heron


Fiery-billed aracari


Costa’s hummingbird

Adolescent summer tanager

Lineated woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Anhinga with lunch

Scarlet Macaw


Woodstork mama & baby


Black throated trogon female

Black throated trogon male

Green heron

Mangrove black hawk

Southern lapwing

Crested caracara


Baby night herons in the nest


Galapagos dove

Owls on Sapelo Island by Melissa

Northern jacana

Teals in flight

Long-billed hermit

Northern harrier


Male jacobin


Grey-headed kite

Galapagos penguins

Rufus tailed hummingbird

Tree swallow

Bare-throated tiger heron

Little blue heron with breakfast

Yellow-crowned night heron


Wood duck family

Reddish egret

Red-headed woodpecker

Roseate spoonbills and wood storks

Orange bellied trogon

Brown pelicans taking flight

White ibis

Roadside hawk

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