Birds and Birders: Look Up and Learn

5 years ago

I love the term "leaf out." For a plant or tree, it means to open its leaf buds. "The trees leafed out late this spring." The time before the trees leaf out in the spring is a special time. The birds are back from their winter retreats, they are busy, and they are easy to watch because there are no leaves on the trees. The birders are also busy.

Birders are people who birdwatch. "The birders visited Central Park in New York City in the spring to see migrating birds." The birders I know are avid, enthusiastic, smart, and tuned in. The  Audubon website says,  "Birding is the number one sport in America. According to US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are currently 51.3 million birders in the United States alone."

While working as a newspaper photographer, I was assigned to photograph a birdwatching event sponsored by a local Audubon group. I woke up very early, in order to meet the group in a parking lot at sunrise. A new world was introduced to me that day. The birders were equipped with binoculars, field guides, tracking notebooks, bird whistles, and so much knowledge about birds—bird calls, bird behaviors and bird habitats.

During this birding excursion, a scarlet tanager was spotted in a nearby treetop. A woman in the group quickly handed me her binoculars and pointed up to a bright red spot on a tree brach. She knew this was my first birding event, and she was eager to share this beautiful crimson bird with me. It was a memorable morning, seeing the birds and the birders in their elements opened up a whole new world to me. I have been tuned in to the bird world ever since.

Your assignment is to investigate and participate in a birding event in your area. Check out Audubon or local nature centers. They all plan wonderful family and children programs.

Some sites to visit:


Bird Conservation Alliance

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Funky Nest Challenge

The Nature Conservancy

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Happy Spring!


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