Back to Birds

It’s been a long time.

I’ve been studying up on migrating warblers and their friends — sparrows, shorebirds, waterfowl — for the last week or so.   I’m keeping a running chart, adding a photo of a bird, or two or three, each day, as I try to re-learn identifying features and colors.


I used to know a lot of birds.  I got into birds when I was in law school, and for years they provided a respite from an intense and competitive professional life.  I had many wonderful opportunities ~ teaching as a volunteer at The Museum of Natural History, hanging out with photographers and eagle researchers, participating in field trips in Ohio and Ontario.

We kept up with birds as a family for a few years when the kids were small, but then . . . soccer, and school, and life in general intervened.  For many years, I’ve gone out once or twice in the spring to look for the migrants, but I haven’t had the energy or interest to take them more seriously.

This year, I’m suddenly inspired.  And so I am making these charts, and remembering.  Some of the birds I could identify immediately; others are taking some work.  But what I’m finding to be really fun is re-discovering memories of the people with whom I’ve spent serious bird time.

  • Prothonotary warbler: BW, pausing on a dike in Ottawa NWR, to take a look at that shimmering golden-orange creature and saying, “Look at that sweet thing.”
  • Ovenbird: A herd of birders at Crane Creek, determined to get a look at one small fellow scuffling in and out of the underbrush.
  • Spotted sandpiper: HW, guiding us along a marsh somewhere, and explaining a flight pattern that I recognize instantly, 40 years later.
  • Scarlet tanager: A young teacher, who would die in a car accident shortly thereafter, standing in the rain amidst a migrating wave of birds and exclaiming, “Black-winged redbirds!”

I saw a post a couple of days ago from a birder in Central Park, who had a nice long list of sightings from earlier in the day.  My list from this past week is pretty short.  But I feel alive and connected to the natural world in a way that has eluded me for a long time.


Image: Common yellowthroat, from Wikipedia.

4 thoughts on “Back to Birds

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  1. I really enjoyed reading about your sightings. The quirky side of me is fascinated by birds. Half expected there to a picture of a Robin on your header page. Not sure what it’s called.


    1. When we used to be active at The Museum of Natural History, my husband since after one evening program that it was like church: people came month after month and were enthralled by the speakers and devoted to the preservation of nature and the environment.


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