I still have one last April day and yes....I will 'bird it'...According to Marriam Webster's, to 'bird-it' has no definition. The same holds true for Dictionary.com or even the stuffy Oxford. False-fronted Wikipedia has nothing on it as well. But if I come up to any of you birders, and say...lets' BIRD-It, chances are you will know what I am talking about. Bird-it=The act of Bird Watching.
So that brings up a fine point....why can't we have our own term? "Google It" or "Binge-watching", or "Photobomb". Go 'bird it'..... I like the sound.
"I have a free morning at 6am, can we 'bird-it?"
"I am going to 'bird-it' Saturday, are you going?"
"Let me see, I will take pancakes and scrambled eggs, then I am going to go and 'bird-it""
"Along came a spider, but I looked up from the web and decided to bird-it"
"After the Eagle game, I think a walk around Forsythe to bird-it will be in order"
"Yes Marge, go get your perm, then...let's bird-it"
"A $50 bottle of wine you say....hmmmm can we 'bird-it' first?
"Hola mi amor, quiere bird-it?"
"My honey-do list has mowing the lawn, take trash out and birding-it"
"Wow, you just won a gran at the casino....lucky you, but did you bird-it?"
Well, you get the point. Other than knowing the names of birds that in many cases do not match to what I feel the name should be, or....know the type of duck by flight only, or .... knowing the sound of a seaside sparrow, or....knowing how to count dozens of birds real fast, or....knowing how to focus with your bins, or..... why can't we have a word just for birders?
Ah, go bird-it man......
Deb and I are 'downsizing' and the shuffling of papers begins. She came at me the other day presenting a newspaper story from '2000 about' birding. Some guy named "Sibley' she said.....
Now....in 2000, Sibley was 39 years old and had just printed off THE Sibley Guide to Birds. Let's see....in 2000 I was teaching 4th grade in Washington State. Just earned my Masters' and was into Technology. My daughters were 18 and 16 and wanting to leave the house. But If you take the time I was 39 years old, I was teaching 3rd grade and was just getting into Technology. So, there I was....you? Where were you and what were you doing when the bible of Birding came out in 2000 or when you were 39? Think...ponder. Did you write your bible?
Upon reading the article, Sibley went thru his life and the beginnings of his bird drawings was as a young lad of 6 as his dad was an ornithologist. From that point it just expanded and he really got hooked on birding when he started banding birds in California. In 1980 he was hired by Pete Dunne to count hawks at Higbee Beach for $200 for three weeks of work. It wasn't until he casually spent time in the Meadows between 1992 and 1999 that he started 'fixing' what needed to be fixed in regards to Peterson's Guide to Birds.
Well, the rest is history..... But, what is in a name you say? One has to admit that the father of birding here in America was John James Audubon. His successor was Roger Tory Peterson. ....two great ones. So when Sibley's book to birding was near completion and, according to the article....a Knopf publisher company representative 'met in person' with Sibley to obviously discuss making the book successful. Hard to imagine his guide being 'not successful', but it must have been discussed. The company representative suggested that 'to be in keeping' with John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson, that David Sibley should use his middle name as well on the cover. So, instead of just David Sibley, he is now David ALLEN Sibley.....as he stated, he was happy to oblige, after all....when you've got a book on the best-seller list, things aren't like they used to be.
Success? Yes, I guess.....in the first few weeks his guide sold over 100,000 copies and a second printing was made. Taking a look at my copy, it was the 11th printing in the 2010 edition so how many sold between 2000 and 2010 and how many between 2010 and now? .....
Saturday the 14th of April......one 'sunny and warm day'...a perfect invitation setting up our Audubon walk. Upon quick recollection, this made (2) days in a row where nice weather nestled in. One, two...not hard to count nor remember. The scheduled Plant Walk with Michael Stanton, which is Sunday the 15th most likely isn't going to copy-cat this day.
Now this Audubon walk had 15-16 of us strung up and down, captivated in birds and the absorption of sun. Kind of a meandering bunch initially as we found our way up and down the initial pathways near the visitor center. Tree Swallows in flight and finches 'fighting in-flight' for territory...A fly-by of 7 laughing gulls and another of 17 Ibis. A blue-gray gnatcatcher in the parking lot, and with the use of Charles's scope, a willet or two way out beyond the boardwalk.
As we scoped the trees and fields in back of the visitor center, a nice low flying raptor made it's appearance as it skulked thru the trees and then plunked itself down on the picnic table in the Nature Classroom. The raptor had us raptured.
A formidable entrance as well as a presence that unmistakably defined this bird as being transplanted from Hollywood to Jersey. It's entrance was just too grand for the normal run-of-the-mill Jersey raptor as it looked for the red carpet treatment leading to the picnic table. In it's inflight quick-glance mode, the white evident on the upper tail was leading to a Northern Harrier, as Charles voiced. But once landed, it turned it's spots to either a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned.
A bit of a debate ensued at this juncture. Kevin looked at the 'square-notched' tail and equated it to a Cooper's but Charles chimed in questioning that the square-tailed was Sharp-shinned. A quick look into Sibley gave this 'squareness' the edge to being a Sharp-shinned. But wait....it just didn't appear right. Other features started to take root....such as a broader head, the stance, the long tail....the size...the manner in which it skulked in...
In the end, the consensus turned to a Cooper's (this one or that one?) who had a propensity towards a squaretail or perhaps how it simply 'settled' in to place upon landing. Not to mention the obvious Hollywood breeding, a bird unique to itself.
Moving on down the lane..... Kris had this strong desire to see her first Pine Warbler of the season..... and yes, one cooperated with her nicely. A beautiful Pine Warbler in vintage plumage presented itself on a 'cherry tree?"....what you say? A Cherry tree? Ah, that's okay as it eventually moved to a neighboring pine.
From my advantage as I 'banked out' right after Gull Tower....nothing overly notable although Stanton tried to entice birds. But do you know what made the day? Well, two things...... first the 'sun'. What a nice morning for a walk. After a less than glamorous and sunless crappy winter and early spring season, it was nice to just have sun and short sleeves for the most part.
The other thing that made the day was simply 'the company'. An excellent group of 'nice people' is the cornerstone and substance of this Atlantic Audubon Society. Stop and think for a moment. Have you ever heard anyone in this group attempt to take-over and be a prima-donna or insult those of less knowledge and skills? Nada...never. This Audubon bunch simply has 'character' and strength from each individual within....they help, chime in....assist, debate, laugh....walk and talk...and watch. A truly unique collection en masse.
Count Dracula.....the name shouts volumes. I can envision in the 1890's when Bram Stoker was writing this horror novel, how devious his thoughts must have been as he chuckled mischievously with each pen of words. Or in 1931 when Bela Lugosi made the first of many movies on Dracula.....but better yet, to my youth as Christopher Lee played the fanged vampire...the stake in the heart and the resurrection in subsequent films. Goosebumps........from childhood arise.
Today I want to instill that same fear.....tremor...a cold sweat within daytime panic and nightmares settled in utter restlessness. Pure 'beta noire'.
Grackles.....brown-headed cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds.....hear me, I command. My quest to have your trembling in your feathers has begun for I, Knight of the Birdseed at this premise, has created a Draconian existence as it hovers around each feeder. My own devious invention akin to the words of Bram Stoker now take hold in draconian nature. How dare you enter this realm and if such stupidness bestows one, it does so with a wicked unease, an aversion to life....feelings of dismay and despair as you seek a solitary seed. With trepidation, yes.... you might drop from above, branch by branch....until you sense the seeds within reach. But no...... no..... Behold the Draconian Contraption, behold....behold this.....beware. You have been warned.
How good of you to drop by.
Well....it happened....was bound to. The first bird walk of the season was April 7th. A bit on the cold side but 7 of us braved the weather. Actually wasn't that difficult unless you wanted the 'feel of your fingers'.....
An Osprey collected sticks...a one stick fly-by....then another one stick fly-by, followed by a third. I think the sticks got bigger with each fly-by. Never did catch a glimpse of where the sticks went but they were 'over there' someplace, beyond the tree.
But a few colors..., a couple of Purple Martins made their appearance a-top of the visitor center. A glimpse of blue with an American Bluebird and BlueJay. Some Yellow-rumped Warblers and some Red-wing Blackbirds. Far off were some Green-winged Teals and some American Robins and some American Black Crows and Brown-headed Cowbird...(well.....scan the complete color list under Bird Walk Results on the top menu)...
But a nice Caspian Tern on the hunt....a Northern Flicker going the other way, and speaking of an American Bittern in conversation, there was one....and 'oh my gosh', a Tri-colored Heron!
The tap tap of a Red-bellied Woodpecker...the honks of a flock of Canada goose, the squeak of a Tit-mouse and the song of a Carolina Wren and the song(S) of a mockingbird.
Frozen fingers and senses....sights, colors and sounds.