Saturday, March 30, 2013

Birding With Bella

Afton Forest Preserve

Geese flying with wind turbines in the background

Bella, my Doberman/Duck-Toller mix, has walked with me on countless occasions. I've spent a great deal of time training her to heel by my side and not pull on her leash.

Every time we walk I am observing nature, but for the most part I do not carry much gear when I have her with (especially the DSLR with large lens). I am even without binoculars often.

Fighting a bit of cabin fever, I decided to load up the camera bag and see if together we could find some birds. So we headed to a local forest preserve known as Afton (DeKalb County in northern Illinois).

Pond With Canada Geese

Afton is a wonderful place with easy, wide trails and a lot of open vistas. The trails circle a fairly large pond that is almost always active with birds. This is the spot where a Vermillion Flycatcher spent some time a few years ago.

We took the largest of the looped trails and took our time. Birding with a dog can be a blessing because she loves to stop and sniff just about everything and it can help to slow the pace down and focus eyes and ears on finding wildlife.

Bella Nova Scotia on a Bench

Bella is good off leash but I kept her leashed for our hike as this particular park has had problems with dogs running loose (with newly posted signs).

I had to juggle camera, binoculars, tripod, and leash but it was all manageable. We even spent some time relaxing on the observation deck together.

Afton Forest Preserve

As for seeing any birds, we didn't find too many. Spring has been slow to get here, and the birds were mostly common stuff. However, hearing Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Meadowlarks in full song reminded me that good weather is coming soon and there will be many opportunities to go birding with Bella.

Red-winged Blackbird Red-winged Blackbird


  1. Those are some of the prettiest pictures of Red-winged Blackbirds I've seen. Bella is a pretty pup. How lucky you are to have such a well behaved birding companion.

  2. I love the red-wing shots. Nice that your dog is well behaved. Perhaps you should train her to carry some of that load for you? They have special packs just for that purpose and dogs love to have a job to do!

  3. You trained her well not to chase after birds. I also take my dog birding because he needs the exercise, but am well aware that it decreases my chance of finding birds. I remember reading an article that claimed having a dog along lowers bird presence by 40%. Beautiful Red-wing shots!