Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Spark Bird

"What is a spark bird?"

A spark bird is the one bird that "lights" a single spark, which eventually leads to a "fire": A lifetime of birding for you, and some pals that you may encourage to go birding with you. Many birders' spark birds are colourful, loud songbirds seen in the spring. For others, it is a drab, elusive sparrow, hopping from one branch to the next.

"What was your spark bird?"

My spark bird was relatively quiet; a White-breasted Nuthatch. Nuthatches are small, tree-clinging birds that eat suet, peanut butter, most common birdseed and a handful of other stuff. This one in particular was a male. I named him Nutty, and a Red-breasted Nutso. He crept down the tree by our feeders; a pal blue back and black cap intrigued me. Because I had borrowed a Golden Guide from the library, I flipped through frantically, as most beginners do. There it was, plain as day, on page seventy-seven. In pure excitement, I felt a strong urge to scream, but somehow held it back. I immediately became attached to the bird and the guide, and didn't want to give it back. Reluctantly, I did. For years, I searched for it. One day, at the library bookstore, I made a beeline for the birding section. And there it was, a Golden Guide to the Birds of North America. Although it was from 1939 and I don't use it ever, I still keep it. Then, last week, me and my family drove to Half-price Books, a place that rips you off when you sell your books to them. I found the science section, and at eye level, there it was (again), except this was a 2001 copy! I was extremely happy when we took it home.

"I wonder what mine will be..."

It could be anything. A Hooded Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Great Egret, or a small bird, such as the American Robin. Roger Tory Peterson's description was on the ball: "The one bird that everybody knows." What will it be?

-Mr. Bird

Monday, April 15, 2013

Birdy Quotes

"Some people are drawn to the beauty of birds, or the variety of songs the birds sing. They may love the sight of a bird they’ve never seen. Others like the social aspect that naturally comes along with bird watching. Bird watching is growing in popularity and many people choose to travel on group trips in order to learn about the world of birds. There’s no doubt that bird watching is very peaceful, but it’s also exciting. There’s an element of mystery involved when you begin a bird watching outing. You never know what you might see; you can’t always predict what sort of bird you might spot on your trip. And of course there’s the thrill that comes when you finally spot a bird you’ve been hoping to see. One of the other benefits is that it can be done anywhere (anywhere outdoors, at least) and there also isn’t a lot of gear required to enjoy it. What do you need? You will need a good pair of binoculars, some hiking shoes, a field guide so you know what to look for, possibly a notebook, and a great place to go!"
"Birds have wings and tend to use them."
"Here are the Seven Pleasures of Birding, at least as I've determined them:

1. The beauty of the birds.
2. The beauty of being in a natural setting.
3. The joys of hunting, without the bloodshed.
4. The joy of collecting (in that the practice of keeping lists - life lists, day lists, etc.; appeals to the same impulse as, say, stamp collecting).
5. The joy of puzzle-solving (in making those tough identifications).
6. The pleasure of scientific discovery (new observations about behavior, etc.).
and saving the best for last,

7. The Unicorn Effect - After you've been birding for even a little while, there are birds you've heard of or seen in books that capture your imagination, but you've never seen for yourself...and then one day, there it is in front of you, as if some mythical creature has stepped out of a storybook and come to life. There's no thrill quite like it."
-Chris Cooper
"Birds have wings; they're free; they can fly where they want when they want. They have the kind of mobility many people envy."
"Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them."

Of all the quotes I have listed, my favorite is short and sweet: "Birds have wings and tend to use them."

-Mr. Bird