Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Bird Watching Can Take You Many Places
Bird watching is a very simple hobby, and one of the fastest growing in the U.S.
The only equipment you need to pursue this popular hobby are two simple tools. The first is a pair of good binoculars. The second is a field guide to birds for the area where you plan to pursue your hobby, such as the Eastern or Western United States.
Eastern Towhee photographed at my bird feeders in Valley Park, MO
For me, bird watching has always been part of my life. I saw my first Barn Owl in the wild by the time I was a year old. In school I generally did projects about birds or that were centered on birds. This love of birds led me to work for the World Bird Sanctuary for almost 10 years now. Here at WBS I work with the field studies department doing various bird censuses and nest box studies.
This, past year I have had the chance to do some traveling, not only for work, but also personally, and I’ve had the opportunity to see some amazing birds.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl photographed at the King Ranch in Texas
Last spring I took a long weekend and traveled to Southern Texas. My parents and I had some exciting bird sightings. The first was very soon after my parents picked me up at the airport. We headed out to find the Aplomado Falcon. We arrived at the nesting platform, and sitting way off in the distance on the platform was an Aplomado Falcon. I was so excited! That was the last falcon I needed to complete my list for the United States falcons!
Later that day we found the Masked Duck. The Masked Duck is a species that is considered a rare sighting in the U.S., and is normally found in Central America and parts of South America. I also saw more Swainson’s Hawks Migrating through on that trip than I have ever seen before in my life. This was probably the start of their migration into the U.S.
This past November I took a cruise in the Caribbean, including Panama and Costa Rica, and had some fun sightings. While sailing past the eastern side of Cuba, we were miles out to sea, and an Osprey flew over the ship, heading away from the island. Then, as we were sailing into Aruba, but still hours away from shore, a Peregrine falcon flew over my head and, I believe, landed somewhere on the ship, because once we got to Aruba a Peregrine suddenly was over my head again.
I kept my binoculars with me aboard ship, and on all of the stops, to be prepared for whatever bird life was present. The best day for birding was going through the Panama Canal. We arrived just before sunrise and were going into the canal as the sun came up. This is the best time of day for birding, as lots of birds are beginning to move and call at that time.
We saw more Black Vultures in the canal than I have ever seen before in my life. Two of the best sightings were a White Hawk way off in the distance and Mealy Amazons. Both were special since I work with, or have worked with, both of these species here at WBS. Of course one of my all time favorites for the trip were sightings of three species of toucan and two non-bird species--two and three toed sloths.
Collared Aracari photographed at Gatum Lake in Panama
Birding is so easy, and really opens your eyes up to the world around you. I find that since I do lots of bird watching I also see more wildlife in general. Bird watching is just one of the easiest hobbies that you can do every day, and the only work needed to improve your skills is to “Just do it!”.
Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Field Studies Coordinator