Thursday, October 27, 2011

Birding Is Fun, Even If You're Not A Birder

Posted by Pat Bumstead

No pressure. That’s how I approached this wonderful opportunity when Robert asked me to write for his blog. Sure I’m the only Canadian on his list, and it’s a big country up here, but no pressure.

However, I wouldn’t be much of a bird watcher if I didn’t like a challenge. I’m very flattered to be writing for this blog, and looking forward to seeing what comes out of my pen. Imagine my surprise when my first post turned out to be about a non-birder.

My husband of many years does not consider himself a bird watcher. To him, a duck is a duck, unless of course it's larger, then a goose is a goose. Thus are all grebes, coots, mergansers and other waterfowl except swans (they’re white), neatly categorized.

He can however, identify the birds that visit our yard, including female brown-headed cowbirds that flit through occasionally. He can point out the differences between a downy and a hairy woodpecker. He knows enough to yell CAMERA at top volume when an unusual bird is at our feeders.

He came home from the golf course one evening very excited because he had 'gotten an eagle'. My birding brain kicked in first, and I was trying to figure out how someone could hit one of the bald eagles on the course with a golf ball. He was unimpressed by my lack of congratulations, but by the time my non-birding brain woke up, the moment had passed. He never even thought of the connection.

On a recent fishing trip, all he came home with was pictures.

When we're travelling, one of us is always looking for birds while the other one is just enjoying the drive. Occasionally though, the vehicle comes to a sudden halt while I’m gazing out the window, off in bird land. One blisteringly hot day last summer, we were driving slowly along a gravel road as I was looking at a large flock of shorebirds. Suddenly the pedal hit the mat, and I whipped my head around. This is what my non-birding husband hit the brakes for.

About a hundred yards from the road were five - count 'em - five ferruginous hawks. Most birders are overjoyed to see just one of these threatened raptors, and we had five. Once I commented on how rare a sighting that was (okay, maybe I said it more than once). He managed to bring it up in any number of conversations, even with non-birding folks.

Does a person have to be interested in all birds to be a birder? Can he retain his 'a duck is a duck' mantra and still think birding is fun? Don't even get me started on what he calls the various gull species, although by now he probably just uses the 'S' word to see the steam come out of my years.

On the other hand, he's very proud of the fact that he's seen nine owl species and has become rather adept at working that into conversations as well.

He may deny it, but I'm inclined to think he’s a birder and just hasn't realized it yet. If he ever points out a horned-grebe on the water though, I’ll buy him his own birding hat and pass the salt.

As I normally write for my blog at Bird Canada, I should add that my posts here may sometimes stray over into Canadian-ese. I apologize in advance for all those extra ‘U’s’ that might show up.


  1. I very much enjoyed reading your post, it was humorous, interesting and informative. I will certainly drop by your blog as well.

    The photos of the hawk and owl left me breathless:)

  2. That's a great owl photo, is it a Boreal?
    That slow, begrudging recognition of birds is how it starts. For myself and now for my wife, it becomes harder and harder to not look at a bird and wonder. Then It becomes harder to not just look at any movement, or some bulk in the distance, and see if it's a bird. Then you find yourself going out of your way just in case you see any birds. At that point, you're hooked...

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  3. Pat, how utterly awesome to see five Ferruginous Hawks at the same time and that your husband spotted them! Loved your post.

  4. Howdee my Awesome Tweetie Blogger friend...

    Super post!

    You hubby Is indeed a BIRDER~

    Hugs to you both!

    And to quote our dear Robert M. "Always be

  5. Pat, I think your husband is definitely a birder...though perhaps at his own level of enjoyment. That is the cool thing about birds...we all enjoy them in our own way and in our own time. Wonderful post sharing your enthusiasm for birds and birding! Honored to have you on the BiF! team.

  6. My little northern saw-whet owl and I thank you so much for your wonderful compliments on my post! I look forward to seeing what I come up with next month.

  7. Pat, I also enjoyed reading this post and the photos are super.
    Uh-huh...your husband is a birder.:)

  8. I, too, used to think a duck was a duck until a friend from work introduced me to "birding".
    I had to laugh at the "S" word. She cured me of that as well! lol
    I still don't have much of a clue when it comes to the different species of shorebirds and raptors but I am getting pretty good at ID-ing warblers.
    I love this hobby and the wonderful people I've met while I'm out in the field, yes, "up here" in Southern Ontario. :)
    You represented the Canadian birding constituency well and I enjoyed this guest post of yours.

    -- Karen

  9. If your husband can tell the difference between hairy and downy woodpeckers, he's a birder, I'm happy to say :-). I loved your photos of the Ferruginous Hawks. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Fantastic post Pat. My wife who never wants to use the bins has started actually asking to go birding. She likes looking but has no interest in listing or learning about the details. She enjoys what she sees. That has helped me be a little more relaxed and less obsessed.


  11. Hi there. Great pictures of the various birds. I really like the picture of the Pileated Woodpecker. I have been trying to get a good picture of that bird for years but no luck yet. I live in Toronto, and this past Friday, however, I had the luck, along with my wife, of coming upon an adult Saw-Whet Owl out in the bush. This was the first time as birders that we had ever seen a Saw-Whet Owl. Fortunately, we had our camera with us and got some good pictures and video. We have posted them for anyone interested at: