I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as being passionate about birds. And I’m definitely not an ornithor-… ornishol-… you know, one of those bird experts.* I mean, I’ve got a copy of the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America on my shelf at home. No, I’ve never read it, but I’ve seen the spine of the book plenty of times while browsing the shelf for a cookbook.
*Editor’s note: an ornithologist is a person who studies or is an expert in birds.
As a self-described non-birder, you might be surprised to learn that I’ve read Tom’s piece in the Discovery Guide about bird watching a few times now. I’m intrigued by the subtleties of avian calls and chirps, perplexed by the patience and the keen eye required to spot a bird shrouded in leaves.
So, I decided to take my handy Bay of Quinte Field Guide to Birds of the Quinte Region (ie. reference pages 16-18 of the Discovery Guide) and go out on a birding adventure of my own. Here’s how it went:
The Wake Up
My colleague Jen has told me from her conversations with Tom that early morning is an ideal time for bird watching. I dutifully set my alarm for 4:30 am–early, I know! But, I was satisfied with the thought of capturing the perfect snapshot of the Virginia Rail at the H.R. Frink Centre. And possibly the ensuing praise on Instagram when I shared my glimpse of this Rail along the boardwalk, the soft light of the sunrise painting the background with pale pink and orange hues.
I woke up the next morning, bleary eyed and confused by the sunlight streaming into my room from beneath the blinds. How could the sun be this bright at 4:30 am? I rolled over and grabbed my phone, which read 8:47 am–shoot. When I navigated to my alarm, I realized that I’d set the alarm for the day before.
After quickly getting dressed I grabbed my binoculars, camera and birding hat (crucial tool for expert bird watching) and hit the road.
10:05am: I got to the Frink Centre a mere four hours late–not bad, all things considered. I adjusted the brim of my (birding) hat, grabbed my camera and DG and set forth. I made my way to the boardwalk, still confident that I’d catch a glimpse of one of the birds Tom wrote about.
My peaceful daydream of being surrounded by birds à-la Snow White was interrupted by a deep, gurgling sound. I turned around, alerted to the noise. A second, thunderous rumble gave me pause and pointed me to the source of the noise: my hungry stomach. My late rise meant that I’d run out the door without breakfast. I shrugged and returned to my car to eat the lunch I’d packed for later.
The Final Attempt
10:33 am: I was full and finally ready to find those birds! While my binoculars slowly panned the scene, I strained my ears for the choral concert punctuating the otherwise quiet marsh landscape. My untrained ears noted the wide array of chirps, though I couldn’t identify them if my job depended on it (which, thankfully, it did not). My trouble distinguishing the bird calls could also be attributed to the dull roar of the forklift that suddenly began moving pieces of the new boardwalk being built. Oh well.
Here’s my amateur bird watching advice: check out Tom’s monthly bird blog for pro tips, then spend some time just sitting quietly and listening. And always double check your alarm clock…