Birding with a Group
My friend Debbie was asked to lead a bird walk at our local library, and she asked me to come along to help. I always learn a lot from Debbie so I was happy to attend.
Our library has a beautiful Memory Park, which is a project of the local Rotary Club. There are theme gardens with a waterfall, large pond, and even a tiny wetlands area. It backs up to a small historical park, and beyond that is a huge grassy field.
However there used to be fields and trees all around it, but now houses are being built in those fields, so I didn’t expect to see much. I’m happy to say I was wrong, and in an hour and a half, on a trail only a half mile long, we saw 21 species. I think the thoughtful planning of the garden has provided habitat for a variety of birds that might have moved on otherwise.
In the field I heard some birds I have heard here on our farm, but haven’t been able to identify. They reminded me of a Red-winged Blackbird with their pure tones, but they sounded plaintive instead of cheerful. Debbie was able to tell me that they are Eastern Meadowlarks, and after a few minutes, one came up to a nearby bush and posed.
I can’t get this audio to embed as I would like, and there are some human voices in the background, but of all the files I listened to, this one sounds most like the meadowlarks I hear on the farm.
It was a cloudy day so the pictures didn’t turn out great, but they were a first for me. Twice in my life I have seen Eastern Meadowlarks jump up on a fence as I was driving by, but I have never been able to stop and get a picture.
I was reminded on this short walk of the benefits of birding with a group. It’s plain that birding with someone more advanced than yourself is a great way to pick up some facts and tips, but it is also beneficial to bird with beginners. They make me slow down and look at every bird more carefully. The beginners in our little group were the ones who noticed Bluejays and Northern Mockingbirds carrying nest materials. They also pointed to a large bird on the horizon and asked what it was — if Debbie and I had been walking alone, we probably would have glanced at it and thought “vulture.” It might not really have registered. But because she had to answer a question, Debbie realized it was a Bald Eagle! They are known to be in our area, but are not common, so it was exciting to see it fly over.
The walk was supposed to be over at noon, but we had seen so much everyone stayed until 12:30. After they had left, Debbie and I went back for another loop around the pond, to get a better look at some sparrows we had seen. The two sparrows that occur in our area most often are Chipping Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows — we knew we had seen a third species on the walk, but we didn’t know what it was.
One of them was walking through the grass near us, and I was getting some pictures of it, when some piece of large equipment started running at the construction site nearby. The sparrow stretched up and looked in that direction. Its curiosity made for some cute pictures.