This one’s for the birds: Forays into birdwatching

I like learning new skills to bring with me when I’m out hiking – how to box a compass, how to recognize different kinds of plants, how to geocache.

And now, your blogger-in-chief is taking an interest in birdwatching.

Some bird watchers are experts; I am of the “I can recognize robins, cardinals and finches, but for anything else I have to go looking through the guidebook” level of birdwatching skill.

Why do so many people enjoy birdwatching?

Birds are beautiful (though some might beg to differ in the case of, say, a vulture), often entertaining, and most importantly, vital to a functioning ecosystem. Basically, if you don’t have birds, then you’ve got a serious problem. After all, that’s where Rachel Carson got the title for “Silent Spring;” she noticed, one day, that there weren’t any birds singing. And birdwatching gives you a sense of how many of what kinds of species there are.

Here in my neck of the woods, in the North American eastern woodland/suburbia biome, we’ve got lots of the usual suspects: robins by the flock, sparrows ditto (mostly house sparrows and song sparrows, I think), blue jays, cardinals, starlings, tufted titmice and chickadees. There’s woodpeckers, too, red-headed and red-bellied – there’s an old tree in the backyard that they really seem to like.

We’re now into hatching season; on my walk into the office one morning, I spotted half a speckled blue eggshell on the ground, which told me that there were some robin hatchlings somewhere nearby.

I’ve also seen at least one Eastern towhee, what may have been a northern flicker (I was flipping like mad through the book looking for a dun-colored bird with a red spot on the back of its head), and while on a walk in one of our local parks, I finally spotted the first fully-yellow goldfinch (New Jersey’s state bird, BTW) of the season. Out in marshy or swampy places, I’ve seen a few red-winged blackbirds.


Once a year here in northern New Jersey, the local Audubon chapters have the “Birdy 30:” to participate, all you do is sit in the yard or the park for half an hour and record how many and what kinds of birds you see.

Here in town, we have the Montclair Hawk Watch. And their viewing platform, perched way up on the face of the First Watchung near Mills Reservation, is the scenic view to end all scenic views.

There’s a book that I’m finding really useful: the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, a copy of which I found at my local library (a good source for hiking and nature books in general). The book comes with a CD full of MP3 files of bird songs; you can play different tracks and say, “Okay, then, that’s what a summer tanager sounds like,” or “So that’s that bird that keeps making an unholy racket at six in the morning.”

Some of the phonetic writings of bird calls can be a little amusing. There was this one bird guide that described the tanager’s call as “chip tucky-tuck.” To which my mother routinely asked, what were the guide’s authors putting in their thermoses when they went out bird-watching?

Categories: Ecology, Equipment, Other, Walking, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

My Lady Scribbler

A blog that's literally one for the books


A great site


North Jersey Modern Quilt Guild

Girl Gone Hiking

quickly becoming An Old Broad in Boots!

Trail Heads and Wandering Minds

For hikers, bikers, explorers and other people who like to get their boots muddy


Oahu hikes

austin vivid photography

heather schramm-lifestyle photographer

ice cream magazine

................... for lovers of ice cream. Your free on line magazine for sweet frozen treats. Recipes, inspiration, artisanal ideas for your delectation.

Modern Day Lewis and Clark Expedition

Modern Day Re-Enactment/Expedition


A great site

My Blog

A fine site


Space to Create

Mr. Greco's Lesson Plans

FFCHS: Secondary/US History

Mackintosh Fun Time

BJ Wanlund's Apple Blog!

David Quesal

The Quesal Puppet Troupe

Space oddities

What I didn't learn in science class

%d bloggers like this: