2018: The Year of the Bird

I’ve begun to make a case for bird watching. Birds are beautiful, they capture the imagination, one can enjoy the hobby alone or with others, etc., etc. Let me add, if I may, one more reason to go birding. (I’ll add more reasons as time goes on.) Birding is downright exciting. You never know what you might come across!

Great Egret in flight
Great Egret

Birding is Like a Baseball Game

Along those lines, here’s something I shared with a friend and fellow birder recently. As we’re well into the 2018 baseball season, I thought this would be a fitting way to share  my thoughts regarding a recent outing at Weyanoke Sanctuary in Norfolk, where I came across a very rare and elusive migrating Bicknell’s Thrush. This species is one the rarest around, if not THE rarest  And it is near threatened. That it stopped en route in the Elizabeth River watershed and very close to the river itself was way cool. I wrote to my friend the following: “I always tell people whom I lead on bird trips that birding is a little like going to a baseball game. The game can be a scoreless, uneventful, error-filled drag, or attendees can witness a triple play, a no-hitter, a steal home, a grand slam and so on. I witnessed a steal home–and then some.” I recorded one of the bird’s songs. (Scroll down and click on the play button.) It sang a song series. And as I fumbled for my recorder, I managed to record the last one.

The Year of the Bird

In the last post, “Birdwatching Connects Us With Nature,” I mentioned Jonathan Franzen’s recent National Geographic article entitled “Why Birds Matter and Are Worth Protecting.” He wrote that as National Geographic and several other organizations mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by declaring 2018 to be the ‘Year of the Bird’. Prior to the enactment of the MBTA, birds were killed, among other reasons, to obtain their feathers and plumes for use in the millinery trade. Think: women’s hats. Egrets were hit particularly hard and some egret species, including the Great Egret (one is pictured here in flight), came close to becoming extinct. You can see on this adult male both its feathers and its plumes, those long showy less rigid and more free-form feathers trailing from its back. The plumes are used in courtship displays. I took this photo along the Southern Branch near Inland Rd.

Before I close, let me remind everyone to check out the nests I watch. I monitor several local Osprey nests, and chicks should be hatching soon in some nests. I’ll be describing what I see, and I hope to have some hatchling photos up shortly.

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