I was warned that bird watching can suck you in, that what begins as an innocent desire to identify backyard birds can become an obsession that sends people on excessive quests to to find illusive species to add to their lists. There is no chance of that happening to me, but after participating in an excursion to view the overwintering cranes who descend by thousands on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, I was intrigued enough to join a group of birders on a morning walk around Aldridge Gardens.
Everyone met in the parking lot, and when I arrived, people already were pointing and scanning nearby trees with their binoculars. Even I could see the flock of cedar waxwings perched amidst the branches of a tree a few feet away. I am a baby to bird watching, and that was as good as it got.
"Look at the Pine Warbler!"
These people know their birds. Everyone swung their binoculars upward and nodded in agreement. I was busy trying to focus in with my binoculars, and by the time I found the right tree, never mind the right branch, the Pine Warbler was long gone. I had similar results with the Eastern Phoebe, the Carolina Wren, and about twenty other birds. I did a little better with the birds gathered around a large feeding station. If a bird was big and brightly colored, it helped. I let out a whoop when I found the Red-headed Woodpecker perched high up in a snag.
I spent a pleasant morning strolling through beautiful surroundings, and I enjoyed the enthusiasm of my fellow birders. I think I will have more success with my birding efforts at home. Red-shouldered Hawks have built a nest on a large branch that arches over the front lawn.I can see them easily from several rooms inside the house. And Bluebirds have chosen the new red birdhouse only steps from the kitchen. Front row seats!
This morning I saw a flock of birds flying over the house. I immediately wanted to grab the binoculars to confirm my suspicion that these were American Robins. Was that a sucking sound I heard?