Thursday, February 24, 2011

Always be birding!

My new job has me bound to a desk with three computer monitors staring me in the face at all times.  These screens each have a separate program up which allows me to efficiently manage a couple hundred home repairs in the eastern half of the United States...all with the clicks of my wireless mouse and a few key strokes on my ergonomic keyboard.

Recently, a property came up to bid in Salt Lake, just five blocks from my office so I was asked to oversee the repair bidding process on this home.  I was so excited for the opportunity to break free from the cubical farm and have a little field time.  I had an appointment to meet a heating contractor and in my haste to get out of the office I arrived five minutes early.  I discovered the yard to be severely overgrown as it had been abandoned for about a year, but the birds were plentiful.  I thought I'd play a little game and see how many bird species I could see before my contractor arrived.  My binoculars were left at home that day (a terrible mistake for anyone who truly calls oneself a birder), so this was going to be bare-naked birding at its is best!

Here's how the game went down:

A half dozen House Sparrows in the front rose bushes right off the bat.
I did a little pishing in the front yard..........nothin'.  Movin' on.
When I walked around to the backyard, instantly a whole flurry of wing-beats erupted almost from under my feet...Three Red-shafted Northern Flickers, a few California Quail, and a dozen American Robins.
The Oregon Dark-eyed Juncos and the male Downy Woodpecker didn't seem to mind me being next to their brush pile.  I enjoyed watching the Juncos up close as they hopped around scratching for food like little chickens.  The Downy zoomed up and down short little branches protruding from the brush pile just feet from me.
This backyard abutted another large untamed yard where House Finches and European Starlings frolicked in the shrubs.
I thought that would be all the birds I would see, but just as my appointment arrived, a flock of Canada Geese flew noisily overhead.
Bam! Nine species in just a four short minutes. At lunchtime I submitted the checklist to eBird.

I had my camera with me to photograph the property, so I snapped a few shots of the birds while I played my little game.  Here are a couple photos that were decent enough to share...

Male Downy Woodpecker with the fantastic red patch on the back of his head.
A majestic American Robin seeking worms in the leaf litter freshly exposed to sunshine after a snow melt.
I'm not sure if this is a 1st year Robin or a female, but I thought the texture on its belly and throat was pretty neat.
House Sparrow in the overgrown rose bush.  Even House Sparrows are fun when playing this little game.

Live the birder's mantra and
Always Be Birding!

 (I've been inspired to play this little game regularly after reading Pete Dunne's articles "Ten Birds for Walter" and "Friendly Skies" in Birder's World Magazine, now called BirdWatching.)


  1. It's good to go birding without bins occasionally - tests out the "jizz" impressions of birds in our brains but it's amazing how well it works most of the time

  2. Robert, you KNOW that is my mantra also and I usually bring my bins everywhere! Sometimes it drives my family nuts. I counted birds even when I was waiting to put my Mom on the train in New London and I saw 6 fish crows there. Then, while picking up some canolis at a bakery in Bridgeport I not only saw a red-tailed hawk in the middle of the city on some utility wires over the parking lot but I also had my camera and got a picture!

    Love your photos by the way, especially the 2nd robin and the Downy!

  3. @Phil - you are right about birding without optics being good for us in developing our i.d. skills. I just purchased a sketch pad and pencil set and I may try birding with it a little.

    @Kathiesbirds - You are a perfect example of someone that is "Always Birding".

  4. Great photos Robert - and I hear you about the cubical farm. Fortunately my office is out in the middle of farmland (I'm a distance learning/e-school teacher) so I'm able to get out on my lunch hour and do a little birding. I usually see the regulars but every now and then something interesting shows up!

    This would be a great game to play from my office window as well but it might take me away from that all important task of marking assignments. Nice post!

  5. That was certainly a nice break from your desk and computers. The photo of that young/female? robin is especially beautiful.

  6. All great photos Robert and I, like you, am always birding. Sometimes to distraction (just ask my wife). I feel naked without my bins but I have forgotten them a few times when switching vehicles and the like. It's not easy birding without them and I am also amazed at how many species you can see in a very short time.

    BTW the male Downy is fantastic!

  7. @Dave - my lunch hour birding has been enjoyable as I track the regulars and still hope for that "something interesting". I need that daily break from the high paced job and screen time.

    @Mick - Thanks for the nice comment.

    @Larry - My wife probably feels a lot like your wife! "Focus on the road Dear. It's just a bird." is commonly heard in our family minivan.

  8. that was great. And to get such good photos too. Maybe the birds did not get scared of you. I love the robins, so different from ours.

  9. I'm still relatively new to birding, but even my friends and family are starting to get tired of me following birds around any time I see one.