Adventure: Birding? WTF?

Did we just become best friends? I think I’m a birder now. Damnit. (Old dud with binoculars.) Yesterday I found myself on a mountain top in frigid temps. (It’s ten degrees right now here in old Santa Fe.) I had just made a thousand-foot elevation gain at maximum pace, so my heart felt like it would rocket up my throat at any moment. I was wearing gloves, hat and four layers over my torso but I was still wearing shorts. (acid-washed jean micro shorts of course.)

I was sweaty and knew I only had a few moments before I would begin to get cold, so I found shelter from the wind, pulled my trusty binoculars and began feverishly hunting for birds. (I used to hunt with a shotgun so the idea of looking for birds is natural for me.) There was the steady cry of the raven. Did you know the raven shares characteristics with humans? Do you know they have the largest brain of any bird and can practice linguistic displacement? They problem-solve, imitate and even communicate with wolves to help them break down a kill. But ravens are common. I was after the songbird.

My first find. An American Robin. How on Earth is it that I can be so excited by seeing a robin? What fundamental DNA strain connects me with this tiny creature? My heart rate began to rocket back up as I noticed a swirl of color glide then stop on a nearby tree. Now, I had my glasses off so all I saw was a streak of colored movement. But when the binoculars came up the robin filled the frame. “I got you,” I uttered. The bird looked at me. I looked at him/her and we just had a moment. “Sup?”

This was my second purposeful encounter with birds in the past month and I have to say, I’m totally digging the experience. We are losing SO many species at such a high rate I figured there is no better time than now. And my next project? Drawing birds. When it comes to drawing I suck beyond belief so this isn’t going to be easy. Stay tuned.

9 Comments on “Adventure: Birding? WTF?”

  1. Its ok to be an old guy with binoculars. I love ravens. They have a sense of humor, I swear. They dive bomb me in the garden because they know I get antsy from it. They like to torture me. This is a great post. Hope you did not get too cold.

    1. Janet,
      I’m fascinated by ravens. I’m going back out later today. See what else I can find. It was 10 this morning but is a balmy 21 now.

  2. Wow, what a beautiful little bird Mr. Milnor. We have a lot of birds here on Naxos, but unfortunately I know nothing about them, neither their species nor their habits. However every day at around 17:00 o’clock a flock of birds fly into formation above Naxos Castle and I have photograph them many times. It’s like they are dancing in the sky!

    1. George,
      Me neither. Which is why I’m intrigued all of a sudden. My mom used to have birding books in the truck, and binoculars but I never thought anything about it. Until now…

  3. I first became aware of birds in the city. I realized that theirs was a world separate from but interpenetrating ours, like a science fiction story. (More recently, this has been the premise of China Miéville’s The City and the City — independent, even antagonistic societies sharing the same space but not seeing one another.) The more you notice birds, the more you discover, and the more excited you get over unusual and/or spectacular birds. And the more places you go. Birders know the geography, habitats, and wildlife of all kinds of places, including many you wouldn’t know to visit otherwise. Who knew that sewage treatment ponds can great places for birds? Just participated in my first Audubon Christmas Bird Count and it was great fun. I recommend, which lets you search by place and time of year to see what has been seen where you are, over the last several years and recently.

    1. Hey Nancy,
      Ha, I downloaded Ebird yesterday…. Also, I ran into a guy about twenty miles from Santa Fe, in a very strange location. I was on my bike he was in his 4×4. He told me the odd little place we were standing was one of the best birding areas in the entire SW. Now all I can think about is going back..

  4. Raven or crow? The main way to tell the difference is shape of tail. But as I learned recently, the other way is their call: crows sound like they are asking a question, ravens are never in doubt.

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