American Redstart female
American Redstart male
I had a wonderful Mother’s Day doing…birding of course!! I went with my awesome son and daughter-in-law to a wildlife area and we did what I might call ‘integrated birding’ or ‘deep birding’ a bridge between numbers stacking up listing birding and slower paced more ‘mindful’ birding. I think a lot about birding and how it is done and how to teach people about it. My goal is always to foster a deeper connection between people and birds.
We arrived at our area mid-day when birds can be quieter, and after checking off a few redstarts and orioles, we might have moved on. But my keen-eyed son spotted a darker, larger, not-moving bird obscured among the leaves. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was doing exactly what Yellow-billed Cuckoos do! The longer we stayed there the more we saw. While tuning into the redstarts we saw one with yellow sides and tail spots, the female American Redstart, then followed her as she foraged and the male sang nearby. A pair, likely going to breed there. Then we saw other male redstarts and began to get a sense of multiple redstarts dividing up breeding territories. Orioles sang from several places and we saw males and females (both males and females sing). A Warbling Vireo showed us views prompting my daughter-in-law (a more new birder) to be surprised at how plain it was, but such a “robin with a slide whistle” sound. A catbird kept up its constant singing which improvises and mostly mimics the sounds of other birds as do its cousins the Brown Thrasher and the Northern Mockingbird. In general, Gray Catbirds do not repeat syllables consecutively but repeat each once, Brown Thrasher tends to repeat syllables in pairs, and Northern Mockingbirds birds repeat after several times. Knowing this helps a birder distinguish them. A beautiful Scarlet Tanager sang from a treetop its “robin with a sore throat” scratchy song then moved on, possibly a migrant. Looking out over a bridge the breeze, kissed by the water, brought a gentle feel and aqua scent to our faces. Then a flash of melted butter caught our eye. A female Yellow Warbler was not just checked off then ignored, but followed. We realized she was at an Eastern tent caterpillar big web in the fork of a tree. Then she began to pull off some of the web and fly off. She will use this as “glue” to help her stick together her nest material, follow her and you will find the nest. We walked a short distance by the railroad track, and found a Magnolia Warbler working its way along feeding. We had to leave soon, had just started back to the parking lot when a loud hoot from a Barred Owl stopped us in our tracks! Then another Barred Owl answered from the distance with a higher-pitched voice, likely the female. Even though female Barred Owls are larger than males, their voice is higher pitched. Likely a pair with a nest nearby. We were about to get in the car when a Yellow-throated Vireo sang from a tall tree, cool! (I less commonly encounter them). Suddenly overhead two Red-tailed Hawks circled over us. We went to lunch, filled in our eBird checklist, and agreed we had a great time.
We had seen migrant and many breeding birds, each in its own special breeding habitat, and paused long enough to get a sense of where they were in their cycle, deepening our understanding of them and their lives. We had fun compiling our numbers list as well, satisfied we did a good job at finding and identifying all the birds. We had hardly moved beyond the parking lot, yet the longer we stayed the deeper our experience was. We had covered the spectrum of how to do birding. Yes, birding is a big tent, open to all and welcome to all. Come on in.