WORDS ON BIRDS
Once a Birder - Always Birding
Jult 05, 2017
One of the
pleasures of retirement is that you can spend more time observing
the birds in your own back yard, as well as to venture into the
field to find more birds in your birding area. Since I have had
limited time to get out there birding in the past month, I have
relied on retired birder Doug Chickering of Groveland to share his
observations with us:
“One of the
realities of being a birder is that you soon become accustomed to
the fact that part of your mind is always birding. How many of us
have been awaken in the midst of deep sleep by the quiet low trill
of a Screech Owl, or have found ourselves among non-birders during a
social situation, suddenly stopping a comment in mid-sentence when
your unconscious birder self spots some movement in a tree at the
edge of the party. The depth of our passion means that over the
years we gather a large reservoir of knowledge which manifests
itself in surprising and unexpected ways. We bird sometimes when we
don’t even know we are birding.
“This afternoon (July 30) I was sitting in our living room watching
the Red Sox blow another lead when I slowly became aware of a sound
intruding into my consciousness. It was a high pitched, almost
inaudible scream coming from outside, and above. It took a few
seconds for my mind to process the noise and to realize it was the
high-pitched call of a Broad-winged Hawk. I picked up my binoculars
and walked out on the deck.
bird called again and again and finally appeared from behind the
high oak in the yard and briefly banked into an arc and disappeared.
It was a hawk, it was a buteo but the lighting was not great and I
was still basing my identification by that call. Then I heard a
second call, far off to my right and immediately after that a third
call, directly overhead.
farther out onto the deck and sure enough there was a hawk directly
overhead and close. I put up my binoculars and became reasonably
certain that this was a broad-winged. However, it was a juvenile so
the tail banding was faint as was the black at the wing tips. Oddly
in this bird there appeared to be a translucence that one would
associate with a Red-shouldered Hawk. But to me the wings were not
the shape of a Red-shouldered. Then, this bird was joined by
another, only higher up and when I got on this bird it accommodated
by calling. Some of the field marks on both hawks were unclear but
the call was clear, unmistakable and diagnostic.
“I shouldn’t have been surprised by this bird, for I have had them
here above the yard, circling the woods and houses around us now for
four days; and as they have last year, and the year before.
Broad-winged Hawk. Not a bad yard bird.
“In a similar exciting moment of recognition this morning Lois and I
were poking around some of our local patches, intending to avoid the
Sunday crowds at Plum Island. We drove down to the end of Crane Neck
Road. Finding nothing at the two gates we turned around and drove
“Just before we hit
the school bus turn-around a big black bird flew across the road and
into the trees on the left. My first instinct was Crow. It was black
and big but immediately I knew something was wrong, for this big
black bird flew to the trunk of a large tree on the roadside. Crows
don’t land on trunks. And sure enough after a short search I found
the Pileated Woodpecker. It was a male and soon he was joined by a
female. We had never seen a Pileated in this area before. It is
clear to me that Pileated Woodpecker is getting easier and easier to
find, at least in our immediate area. My unscientific opinion is
that their population is increasing.
If you enjoy Doug’s accounts of his birding experiences, I encourage
you to read more in his book “Reflections on a Golden-winged
Warbler”, available at local book and birding stores in our area.
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