Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Today I am a birder.

I got up on Sunday at 7am to spend the whole day watching birds. Usually I only get up early on weekends to go skiing, so this is a big deal for me. Tonia somehow got me interested enough in birdwatching over the last couple of years that not only did I get up, but I was the one who actually discovered this trip and signed us up for it. We went out to the Sac. River delta - specifically, to the Isenberg Crane Reserve and Cosumnes River Wildlife Reserve, about a 90-minute drive from SF. A group of about 25 was guided by knowledgeable and friendly guide, Harry, who does this for fun. You wouldn't think it would be entertaining to walk around and look at birds through binoculars--in fact I used to think it would be boring--but it's actually pretty interesting. As Tonia points out, they are interesting to look at, often cute, don't ask anything in return, and have remarkably modest resource needs--even a bush in a park often yields an interesting bird or two. And the financial barrier to entry is surprisingly low--there's all kinds of volunteer groups, Yahoo groups, etc. about local birding, and even city dwellers tend to live fairly close to interesting birding areas--making a pair of binoculars and a The Sibley Guide to Birds a good Christmas present for a curious person. The amazing thing is that not only did I find it fun, I've actually learned to identify some birds on my own, and not just pigeons. A partial list (from memory!) of what we saw, with italics meaning I identified it, include sandhill crane, snipe, red-tailed hawk, marsh hawk, peregrine falcon, common yellowthroat, ruby-crowned kinglet, short-billed dowitcher, black-necked stilt, Canada goose, white-fronted goose, moorhen, coot, cinnamon teal, bufflehead, northern shoveler, western meadowlark, marsh wren, wigeon, golden-crowned sparrow, American kestrel, and some kind of plover which I don't remember. Today's lesson: be willing to try anything once. I had a surprisingly good time even though it was an all-day (9am-3pm) outing. And I'd go again.

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