It’s fun to discover the birds

Red-winged blackbird

A red-winged blackbird, just like the two I was delighted to see on my drive to work this morning. (Photo from The Watershed, the blog of the not-far-from-us Lower Trent Conservation Authority)

Okay, so I could bemoan my fate tonight and tell you all about how, just as I tried to put a meat loaf into the Manse’s ancient Harvest Gold oven to cook for dinner, the oven decided to stop working. And how our great neighbours Chuck and Ruth saved the day by letting us bake the meat loaf in their oven. But I think what I’ve just told you is enough; the (fairly regular) appliance breakdowns at the Manse are probably of not much interest to anyone aside from Raymond and me.

So I’m moving on to a happier theme, which is: bird discoveries. I’ve written before (like here and here and here and here) about what an unexpected (for me, anyway) joy it has been to listen to and learn about the birds that we see and hear in and around Queensborough. If you had told me even a couple of years ago that I’d be interested in birds – what they look like, what they sound like – I’d have said you were talking crazy talk. I didn’t even like birds (I’ve always been kind of afraid of them), let alone have an interest in them. But that has changed since we moved to the Manse last fall. Now I eagerly watch and listen to the birds, and I am getting quite a kick out of identifying the ones I see. And today I saw two cool bird things.

The first was a pair of red-winged blackbirds flying across my field of vision as I drove west on Queensborough Road on my way to work early this morning. Because they were in flight, the red on their wings showed up beautifully. It was a lovely reminder to me of my maternal grandfather, J.A.S. Keay, who enjoyed watching and learning about the birds (I wrote about that here) and who was, as I recall, particularly fond of red-winged blackbirds. It was the first time I’d seen that particular bird since our Manse adventure began, and so I decided it was a propitious start to my day.

Ruffed grouse

This doesn’t look exactly like the ruffed grouse whom I came upon today having a leisurely stroll (the grouse, I mean, not me) across the main street of Queensborough. But it’s close enough. First grouse I’ve ever seen!

And then this afternoon on the way home from work, just as I crested the small hill by the former St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church coming into Queensborough – and thank goodness I wasn’t going very fast – was what I guessed was a ruffed grouse, smack in the middle of the road, heading south to north, taking his (or her) sweet time, and not much interested in how he/she might be inconveniencing me on the final few hundred yards of my drive home. I slammed on the brakes, Mr./Ms. Grouse made his/her way across the street slowly and with as much dignity as a grouse can muster, and I was on my way.

Of course as soon as I got home I hauled out the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region) and made sure my guesses as to the identity of these birds were right. And when I found out they were, I sat back in satisfaction.

And even as I write that, I wonder: who knew that watching and identifying birds could be so much fun?

Apparently it is just the latest of many lessons that living in Queensborough is teaching me.

4 thoughts on “It’s fun to discover the birds

  1. I agree completely! I never thought I’d be interested in birds, but over the past few years have loved learning the names of even a few new species, with the help of a guide Denis gave me while I was editing the wildlife magazines. For Christmas, Yannick made me a bird feeder and installed it smack in front of a great big window, so it’s like bird TV (or, for the cat, the Food Network, as he pointed out). I was terribly proud to be able to identify a dark-eyed junco and a swamp sparrow this spring, in addition to the familiar chickadees, blue jays, mourning doves and others. I think it’s especially fun being a novice because you have the pleasure of discovery without being disdainful of species serious birders would be bored with. And I tend to think the fun of identification might have something to do with an editorial fondness for classification and just…knowing. Now, if I could only figure out what the little faded-yellow bird is with the black and white bits…

    • That’s exactly how I feel, Nancy – I enjoy being new at this bird thing, and getting a thrill out of seeing (and identifying) even the ones that the pros would think nothing of. Clearly you are well ahead of me: a dark-eyed junco, wow! It’s so satisfying to add, bit by bit, to one’s store of bird knowledge, isn’t it?

      • Oh, and I forgot to mention that my friend the forestry consultant calls grouse “heart-attack birds” because of the way they burst out of the undergrowth just as you pass. I had that experience myself recently, and it’s a perfect description. Your grouse, however, seemed to be more of an ambler.

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