"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Friday, January 8, 2010

Birds in Our Backyard

Having a sliding glass door that looks out on the woods, plus a big picture window in my bedroom with the same view has been a lovely nature connector for our family. We watch our local herd of deer all the time, have had a couple of fox sightings and of course spend quite a lot of time bird watching too. Often, having a window that's so in my face means I glimpse things out of the corner of my eye that I'd miss if I wasn't putting the toys back in the toy box right next to a full view of the nearby woods.

Just a few weeks ago for example, I saw a woodcock just walking through the leaves in a skittering sort of way...in the middle of winter when they're not even supposed to be in our area! I have only seen a woodcock once and although I'm not sure they're not an especially rare bird, I do know that they are unusual to see because they're largly nocturnal. I felt breathless that there one was, whiffling along behind the oak tree, right in my backyard. A quick glance at the bird book reminded me that they love marshy, wet areas that are wooded, with grassy territory nearby...that's exactly what we have! Woodcocks are strange birds. Nothing in the world looks like them with their strange, fat little body, oddly placed eyes and absurdly long bill. They even have their ears in front of their eyes, imagine!

I'm excited to watch this spring for the mating display that I remember witnessing with my college ornithology class. We went to the home of my eccentric professor and all did the army crawl through a field of shivery, dry grass sometime in March while the sun set behind the trees and the heard the beeping, chattering call of woodcock and his lady love and watched them spiralling through the sky. Now that I remember their call (thank you YouTube) I think I've actually heard them outside our house during the occasional end of the day garden stint. They do mating calls and dances from early spring (March or April) through as late as June. Can't wait to take the boys out and see if we can see any beeping birds on some warm spring night.

If you wanna hear a good description of the woodcock mating display I'm talking about and hear their beeping call, check out this YouTube video from NancyToday.

My mother-in-law got me a bird book for my birthday that is a huge, lap-sized edition all decorated with John Audobon's paintings of each species. So lovely to look at and just the right size for small boys who want to see all the birds in detail.

One small silly tidbit about the book that I love is the inclusive language they use in the bird profiles. Its very confidential and cozy, "our largest hawk" (that's the red-tailed that I keep hearing in the yard)...."our most common dove"...etc. I feel cool, I am in with Audobon...we're practically chummy!

Although bigger windows looking out on nature has improved my bird watching again, I have one secret desire. I wish someone would invent a call identifier. Maybe some brilliant somebody would make one of these for the iPhone I am expecting to inherit from A when he upgrades to the new generation!I'd like to have a mini-recorder that I can carry with me while gardening in the yard, taking a walk with the boys or out for a mushrooming hike in a local park...it would have access to perhaps an online database of bird calls and would match your recording with several likely candidates and then present the possible answers to you. Voila! Bird call learning accelerated x100! Anybody wanna invent one of those for me? I'd promise to be your friend forever!



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  2. We are mad for birds over here as well. Such a fun activity to do with the little ones. If you ever want to bird in the Bronx, let me know.

    Love the new blog by the way. Always love to read your musings.

    I have a blog of my own at www.onceuponakitchen.blogspot.com


  3. Yay! Great to have you stop by and leave a little note, Carmen! I would love to come bird with you The Bronx! What fun!

  4. i think that bird call identifier is a brilliant idea!!!

  5. Wouldn't that rock? A told me the day after this post that there is an application like this for music...you hold up your iPhone and record a snatch of whatever song you're hearing or thinking of and it will try to identify it...seems like a hop skip and a jump to move it to bird calls! Right? (Fervently hoping that some techie nature person is listening.)