Saturday, May 5, 2012

Birdwatching in the springtime

White-Crowned Sparrow, by Joe Meche
"If this photo doesn't say spring, I don't know what does."
Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, I never even knew about the pastime of birdwatching and had never thought of feeding the birds. The only thing I knew about those winged creatures was that they sang some pretty cool songs, and I could even identify the meadowlark's beautiful trilling song. And the harsh caw of crows, I knew what they sounded like. I also remember when we had a heavy outbreak of the West Nile virus in Colorado, and suddenly the ubiquitous sound of all birdsong disappeared for many months.

It was maybe three years ago in the wintertime that I noticed some other apartment tenants had sprinkled birdseed on the ground, and I saw all the little bird tracks in the snow. I realized that they probably needed a bit of help during the cold winter months, and I took my first step into the world of birdwatching. After buying some birdseed and putting it out on my porch, within an hour I had little birdies I couldn't identify snacking away. I was thrilled and thus began my love affair with them. 
Bushtit making a nest, by Joe Meche
American Dipper having lunch, by Joe Meche
When a friend at the gym (who is a long-time birder) told me about the online Whatcom Birding Group at Western Washington University, I eagerly joined the listserv and have had my emailbox filled with pictures of birds for years now, giving me a way to identify the ones I've been seeing. I know which ones migrate, show up for awhile and move on, and how to be a good friend to the birds. Joe Meche, who took all the pictures I am putting up here today except for one, sent them to my emailbox this spring. Joe is the current president of the North Cascades Audubon Society and maintains a wonderful newsletter with information about birds and birding (just a click away on the NCAS website).
This beautiful bird is a Great Blue Heron, and Joe said this about it when he sent the email last week: "An adult GBHE flew into the area of the lower creek that's been patrolled by a juvenile heron for more than six months. I didn't see the juvenile anywhere this afternoon." (GBHE is the birders' shorthand for the species when they make a bird count, I've learned.) It makes me wonder what happened to the youngster, but isn't this guy magnificent?
This is the one picture not taken by Joe, but instead by Doug Brown. In the email he sent two pictures, one of an adult Song Sparrow with some hapless bug in its mouth, with this comment: "At a Scudder Pond Song Sparrow nest, one of the parents prepares to make a delivery. The four (or more) targets of the delivery can't be missed." Sometimes I wonder how these little birds manage to feed so many babies! It's a busy time here in the bird world.

And best of all, for me anyway, is that I know what the sound of the song that White-Crowned Sparrow is singing. I've been hearing it for a month now, and some of their relatives have even been availing themselves of the sunflower seeds on my porch and visiting me. I am enjoying birdwatching more than ever!


  1. I need to get some bird seed and a house too I guess because I watch these guys from my window but don't have that many in my yard. We have the usual crows, and hawks, and Scissortails, and wrens but I don't get to see much interaction. Mostly, we have rabbits lately. They have no fear and hang out a lot in the front yard. Fine with me.

    These are some great photos DJan!

  2. well, i'm glad you caught the fever. never too late to add birdwatching addiction! :) your friend takes some great photos, too!

  3. I'm seeing some new birds here at my seasonal job in Colorado. Last evenings as I was sitting outside there were many small birds suddenly flying around at dusk. I figured they were looking for bugs, not sure what they were, they were fast, they had dark wings and white breasts and were very fast.

  4. Jan...It is wonderful to see blogging friends who love birds as much as I do. I was sitting outside this evening looking at that beautiful moon and enjoying "my" birds. I call them that because I feed and water them (God does a better job, but I am supplementing their diet a bit)...and I feel that they are indeed my friends. They are wonderful to watch, and I always learn so much from them. They are company to me every day.
    Spring is indeed here in all its glory. These are beautiful photos you've posted. Thank you for sharing them!

  5. That sounds like a wonderful source you've tapped into. Wonderful pictures.

  6. I wonder what kinds of birds my birdfeeders would attract. Maybe I'll find out someday. Thanks for the pretty pictures.

  7. I love to relax watching the birds that frequent our feeders. Chance and I sit quietly and watch and is a wonderful pastime:)

  8. very cool...i appreciate all of nature and her creatures...obviously we have different birds here but love to see them and hear them sing...these are some really cool shots too...

  9. Birdwatching quickly becomes an obsession. We now buy our birdseed in twenty kilo bags. And I am not going to tell you how long (how short) that lasts us.
    The bird shots in this post were just incredible. Please, if you get the chance, thank the photographers for educating an Aussie.

  10. I became an avid birdwatcher after buying this place. I love seeing what new birds show up at the feeder and how they interact. It adds a lot to my days.

  11. That's a great hobby. I have an amateur's appreciation of hummingbirds and hubby loves mockingbirds. Great blue herons are awesome creatures. Hawks regularly visit my woods but I would love to photograph an owl.

  12. We were on a road trip yesterday. But all we really saw were wild geese in the fields. They were having a field day I guess!

  13. Isn't it such a joy !
    I'm drooling over the magnificence of that Blue Herron....he's a BIG lad !
    I love to see the birds at the feeders, if only I could keep those pesky squirrels away, I used to smile when they showed up, but having witnessed all the destruction they can do, I wish they would stay away.
    Such a lovely post DJan.

  14. Birds are a recent interest for me, too. I just used iBird Pro on my iPad to look up white-crowned sparrow and play its songs (it gives 3 variations). We get white-crowned and white-throated sparrows together for maybe a week in spring and fall, and then they move on. Happy weekend!

  15. Perfect timing on your choice of posts. This morning I found out I have babies!!

    They must have hatched during the night...

  16. Those are great photos of all the different birds. I still have all my bird books that I used when backpacking or just traveling but I'm just a casual observer. We get some song birds but also crows, magpies, hawks and owls. The raptors hunt in the fields behind our house. And when you add in my cats our yard is unfortunately not a good place to feed little birds.

  17. Oh boy....this was extra special for me today. You know my 'love affair' with bird watching. In fact, I'm seriously working on a new blog for bird photos only. I so love watching them. And listening to the songs, and looking up a new species that flits into our yard once in a while.

    You made a great post today DJan. And trust me, it will become addictive.

  18. We have a resident GBHE on our pond and he's magnificent. I'm lucky to have such a variety of birds so close at hand.
    The husband is an old birder from way back, and was a wildlife major in college, so he can recognize them by their songs, as they fly a million miles over your head, when they flash in front of the car. lol Did I say he has a passion for birds??

    Happy Monday, DJan!!

  19. Great photos indeed DJan - I too love the birds. We cater to a family of cardinals on one side of the yard and the bluejays nest on the other. Lots of little sparrows and barn birds and TONS of fun to sit on deck in evening and watch the bathing in the bird pond, or the feeding of the new babies. Thanks for this great post. Have a lovely evening :)

  20. I've been feeding the birds around here for awhile, but I still don't know the names of all of them. I got a thrill out of watching a very small hummingbird (I think) feeding off the blueberry bush on Saturday. I love watching them, and keep the feeders full.

    Lately there aren't as many birds, and I'm wondering why. Or maybe I'm just not catching them. I saw a couple small grey birds in the lilac on Sunday, that were pecking at the bark. I hadn't noticed that behavior before.

    Someday, I'll start learning their names. Maybe I'll join a group like you found, and be able to match the birds I see with the photos!

  21. What amazing photos! I used to see giant crows in Illinois all the time until the West Nile killed them. I loved watching them in Japan, but they were probably pest there.

  22. His photography is wonderful. You have some lovely species around your area. We have Great Blue (and Night and Green) herons visit my local pond spring through autumn. They're always a treat to see. These days, I'm watching a Canada Goose who has been nest sitting for at least the last couple of weeks. She moves around occasionally and I've had a glimpse of 4.. possibly more eggs. I'm looking forward to seeing those goslings.

    Birds are such a joy to watch.. thanks for sharing yours.


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