*FROM THE EDITOR: AS WE MAKE THE TRANSITION TO OUR NEW STUDENT BLOG EDITORS, WE WILL BE REVISITING SOME ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW (BEV), THE ABA'S PRECURSOR TO THE EYRIE. UNFORTUANTELY, WE HAVE LOST TRACK OF MANY OF THESE TALENTED YOUNG BIRDERS. IF YOU CAN GIVE AN UPDATE ABOUT ANYONE WHOSE WRITING APPEARS THERE, PLEASE COMMENT! WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!*
This article was originally published in the July/August 2002 edition of A Bird's-Eye View. ~ed.
One of the most fun and meaningful things that we can do with our knowledge of birds is to share it with others. This can be more difficult than it sounds, as it took me years to overcome my shyness and indecision with non-birders when the topic of bird watching came up. However, once I began to openly and confidently talk about my hobby with interested adults, it gave birding a whole new perspective.
Those of us who were lucky enough to have a birding mentor when we got started know about the joys of learning from someone more experienced. It is important to realize even beginning birders have lots of knowledge compared to the uninitiated. Feel confident that you have something good to share, and do it. Going birding with new people can make a little birding outing into a very rewarding experience, above and beyond the birds you find.
This Independence Day weekend I went camping with some good friends of my family and they asked me to teach them about birds, since I was so interested in them. They knew I had been a birder for years and were curious what was flying and singing in the neighborhood.
Our unusual birding crew set off around ten o’clock in the morning and consisted of three kids four to six years old, three adult women, and me. We started out hushing the youngsters in an open meadow beneath a deciduous forest. Since it was a little late and the sun was shining bright, the music of the forest consisted mainly of Red-eyed Vireos tirelessly pounding away at their diverse phrases. I described the song by waving my hands like a conductor of an orchestra to illustrate the rhythm of the vireos. One by one the adults caught on and began to separate different individuals from the soundscape: one over there, another behind us, more up on the hillside. A Scarlet Tanager faintly sang far away, but I let it slide, hoping we would encounter another. Closer at hand an Indigo Bunting called from the forest edge, where everyone could hear. One of the women smiled as she connected the sound with the sight she had seen many times. We all packed into a Kawasaki Mule (a little motor vehicle) and drove out of the woods and along a power line cut above the Susquehanna River.
We stopped and walked down to the bank. Here the river turns and the current is swift. Listening, we were able to recognize the vireos again and single out another song. The introductory jingle and trills of the Song Sparrow were easy to hear and fun to listen to. I told the ladies about how songs are used to stake out territories as well as attract mates. Some Cedar Waxwings flew by and I mentioned how those birds remind me of parrots, so social, noisy, and fruit eating. We all laughed when we discussed birds across the river describing our habits and appearances. After a pair of Spotted Sandpipers crossed the river in front of us and teetered on a point of rocks, we tore the little ones away from the water beetles and grasshoppers and moved on.
We stopped in a grassy brushy area to look for the buntings. Two were singing nearby, but nothing was readily visible. Some catbirds were singing on the far side of the bushes, but little else was going on. I halfheartedly pished, but the catbirds could care less and no yellowthroats were close enough at hand. To my relief, a Red-tailed Hawk was spotted as he caught the bottom of a thermal near the far shore. This was the first look at a hawk through binoculars for a couple of people, and one stared in fascination until it was gone. The kids were getting restless when, “OH! Look!!!” A big bird came blasting down out of the gap behind us and headed our way. I instantly thought and blurted “Osprey?” as the jet black and bright white Bald Eagle flew right in front of us! We were all so amazed that it didn’t matter. The bird continued away, then swung back and began to climb in circles above us. Even with two pairs of bins there was plenty of time for everyone to have a look and enjoy the bird. I felt wonderful that the perfect bird for the occasion provided a naked eye view to everyone.
Everyone was happy and satisfied after that, and ready to go back. I thought nothing would be exciting after that, but what do you know if we didn’t flush a huge brown bird from a roadside sapling, along with a couple of crows. One of the ladies in front proclaimed it was an owl and sure enough it was a Great Horned. The shocking appearance right in front of us made it very exciting indeed, but it was not as spectacular a sighting as the eagle had been. We returned to camp with smiles and stories to tell. I was happy that non-birders could have such a great time birding in the field, and was most grateful to the raptors for making it such a memorable day.
Every outing will not be so lucky, but it is important to keep in mind that with beginners the most important thing is to keep them interested. Think back to when you first got started with the common birds; they could be very exciting. To convey that feeling to others, try hard to get good views, take your time with songs, and fill in the blanks with some stories or information about birds and other wildlife. Be sure to include everyone and play upon his or her particular interests. After that, exciting birds are icing on the cake.
For more helpful hints about leading more serious tours to see Birding June 2002 p. 258 “Building Birding Skills; Leading Field Trips”.
About the author (IN JULY 2002): Joe Gyekis, 18, lives in Spring Mills, PA and goes to Penn State University. Some of his first words were “deeder-deeder-dee,” “hat-hatch,” and “pecker.”
IF ANYONE KNOWS WHAT JOE IS UP TO TODAY, PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE AND LET US KNOW!