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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Why Pete Dunne is enchanted by birds

So, reader, when was the final time you went birdwatching?

Not chasing some mega rarity.

Not scanning flocks of shorebirds looking for some species that, based on typical pondering, shouldn’t be there.

Simply watching birds for the delight it brings. It’s my favourite model of fowl examine, and more and more, it’s the solely type of fowl examine I observe: simply good old style birdwatching.

Having survived my very own avocational adolescence (my itemizing/chasing development spurt), which was (I confess) arrested for a few years, I discover myself of late merely watching birds as I did in my youth, for pleasure and perception. Massed Purple Martins in August: mesmerizing. Looking Quick-eared Owls in January: fascinating. Feeding Home Sparrows year-round: all grist for my bird-appreciating mill.

Final Could, I went to the Heislerville impoundments in southern New Jersey nearly each day to review the foraging methods of Least, Semipalmated, and White-rumped Sandpipers. Leasts wish to preserve their ft dry, Semis favor moist mud, and White-rumpeds feed proper as much as the gunnels in shallow water.

You wish to discover a White-rumped? Look to the wetter aspect of the flock.

My favourite shorebird-viewing vantage level supplied drive-up proximity to birds and windows-closed safety from the clouds of no-see-ums that infest Heislerville when the wind falls.

Not too a few years in the past, I didn’t have the latitude to have interaction in such leisurely examine. My Mays have been indentured to the frenetic must scout out species to tie down for our World Sequence of Birding massive day run. Heislerville in these days was our main cease for (probably) Curlew Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, plus (hopefully) Lesser Yellowlegs. All these hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers I take pleasure in immediately simply acquired in the way in which of significant scanning. Now I relish the feeding flock because the apex birding present of the season.

At some point final Could, I seen a clot of birders crowded round a phragmites-encased pool about 50 yards from my vantage level. It was evident they have been trying to find one thing. Noting my curiosity in shorebirds, one of many group sidled as much as my door to tell me I used to be trying within the flawed spot. “The Little Stint,” he suggested, favored the small pool the place the gang had gathered. I thanked him for his steerage and went again to learning sandpiper conduct. Shocked by my nonchalance, the gentleman concluded I didn’t admire the importance of his disclosure, explaining {that a} Little Stint was a Eurasian sandpiper “not often present in North America.”

“Sure,” I agreed, “thanks for the tip.” I may need added, however didn’t, “I’ve seen them on 4 continents, together with this one.”

There was a time (and never way back) after I may need raced to see the stint, however now, I discover it extra gratifying to seek out my very own birds. Probabilities have been the stint would finally wander to the pool I used to be learning anyway. In addition to, I a lot desire to see fowl species inside their regular vary than to hunt out the odd wayward peep with an internal ear dysfunction.

I’m completely content material watching the feeding conduct of home-grown sandpipers and the way their approach differs from the Semipalmated Plovers amongst them. Plovers stroll, cease, decide like robins. Sandpipers feed and probe on the run, frantic for the following marine worm. Because the tide covers the flats, increasingly more birds swarm into the swimming pools, and the amount of feeding birds will increase (as do territorial squabbles). The sound of feeding sandpipers is soothing, soulful, and their indifference to my presence endearing. And it’s not as if my leisurely examine will simply go on and on. By June, the feeding throngs will likely be gone, apportioned throughout the Arctic the place they breed, and the curtain will fall upon my examine of shorebirds. In summer time, my curiosity will fall upon the following present of the season: Clapper Rail chicks navigating paths as skinny as a rail or Barn Swallows making cookie-cutter patterns over nest-pocked platforms. Then, come July, Ma Nature begins serving up southbound dowitchers that probe the flats with metronome regularity. It’s mesmerizing and affirming.

A few a long time in the past, I had a dialog with a California birder, a retired doctor and one of many architects of recent birding. His life checklist was method up within the nosebleed part. He assessed his lifetime of chasing and itemizing this manner: “Nicely, I’ve seen all of them. However now I wish to return and see all of them once more, and this time actually take pleasure in them.” He was already in his 80s; I hope he acquired his want.

Me? I can’t rely on the chance to see them once more, so I attempt to “actually take pleasure in” each fowl I see the primary time. Each encounter is exclusive and presents the chance to study some new aspect of the fowl’s life (irrespective of how frequent it could be or what number of occasions I could have seen one).

This existential focus was finest expressed by my good friend Steve Ingraham, who, when apprised that the fowl the group was making an attempt to get a have a look at was a robin, exclaimed with exaggerated glee: “That’s a life fowl for me.”

“You’ve by no means seen a robin?” an incredulous member of the group challenged.

“I’ve by no means seen this one,” Steve defined mildly.

Nicely stated, Steve. Bravo!

I had a considerably associated encounter with a birder in Cave Creek, Arizona, someday whereas being enchanted by a Painted Redstart, an Arizona specialty. Noting my attentiveness, a neighborhood birder approached and requested whether or not I “had” the redstart?

I’m taking a look at one now, I replied. “No, not Painted Redstart,” she admonished, making clear that she referred to an American Redstart that been reported.

“Sorry,” I replied, “it seems the universe serves up Painted Redstarts right here immediately. If you wish to see an American Redstart, I’d strive northern New Jersey. We develop them there.”

Sure, I used to be being obtuse, and he or she went off looking for the wayward redstart. I hope she was profitable and as gratified by her redstart as I used to be with mine, a designer fowl that I first aspired to see method again in my youth when, given my circumstances, a visit to Arizona appeared as probably as a visit to the moon.

Now on to the Pink-faced Warbler, one other Arizona specialty price savoring.

So, I’m anti-listing? Heavens no. That will be as foolish as being anti-baseball playing cards. What I’m is professional birdwatching. Attempt it.

This text seems within the Could/June 2023 challenge of BirdWatching journal.

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