Karen writes: As I sit here watching the birds at my feeders I am reminded of the good times I’ve had birding with Ray and all the things he has taught me. I would love to hear a bird song and be able to ID the bird by just its song. Ray has helped me to pick out certain features of a call which are very helpful.
However, what I’ve learned most from the “Bird Guru” is to look for the finer details when trying to ID a bird by sight. This came in handy the other morning when I had two new birds at my feeders. They looked similar to a White-throated Sparrow, but they didn’t have the white patches under their chins.
One also had a bright rust color on his back feathers and rust colored stripes running down his breast. As it turns out, one was a Song sparrow and the other a Fox Sparrow.
Ray was so pleased I was able to ID the Fox Sparrow on my own, but it was really due to his help that I was able to figure it out. He has taught me to look not only at the size of the bird and the colors, but to pay attention to minor details like where is it feeding. On the ground, or on a feeder? Does it scratch the ground like a chicken or use its beak? Does it go up the tree or down the tree? What are the color of its eyes and beak? Does it have special markings above its eyes or on its head? These are all very helpful when trying to determine one bird from another. It is also helpful to look at tail feathers. Do they make an inverted ‘V’ shape or are they curved like a spoon? Are they long or short? Does it have white tips on any of its feathers? Small details like this are very useful when trying to determine what kind of bird I am looking at, especially when several species look so similar!
The typical birds I see on a daily basis in my yard are Cardinals, Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Wrens, Blue jays, Goldfinches, Eastern Bluebirds, Robins, Mourning Doves, Mockingbirds, House sparrows, Chipping sparrows, House Finch, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and on occasion, a Yellow-bellied Sap Sucker. In the past, I’ve also had an Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak.
But of all my birds, my favorite is the Carolina Wren. We’ve had at least one Carolina Wren for about seven years. What I love most about them is on mild, sunny mornings she will sit on the end of our deck and sing a beautiful little tune while bouncing up and down. It makes me think they are the happiest little birds in the world. In the spring I also enjoy trying to find what new and interesting place she has decided to put her nest. She has nested in our gutters, under our deck, in some old fencing behind our shed, in a strange hollow in a small tree, in my fern planters and she tried once to nest in an empty pot hanging in our shed, but we blocked the hole before she could make a permanent nest.
There have also been many times I was unable to locate her nest because she hides them so well and she is very careful when she goes near them so as not to give the location away!
I enjoy birding all year, but the winter birds are the ones I really look forward to! I love when it snows because I get a plethora of new birds that aren’t here on a typical day! I see Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Brown Thrashers and many more. My first White-throated Sparrow showed up about two years ago, but I can now proudly claim at least four of them. I also had a Yellow-rumped Warbler that showed up last year, but I’ve yet to see him this year. On a typical day when we have snow on the ground I can get 100-plus birds and generally have to refill my feeders each morning!
Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had have been out birding with Ray at the local lakes and parks. We’ve seen Summer Tanagers, Yellow Warblers, White-breasted Nuthatchs, Barn Swallows, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Green Heron, Great Blue Herons, Great Egret and a Double-Crested Cormorant.
Two of my favorites were the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Prothonotary Warbler! If you ever get an opportunity to meet up with Ray at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park or for a personal birding trip never turn it down! I can guarantee you will enjoy it and find birds you have never seen or even thought of looking for. I’ve been lucky to go on numerous trips with Ray and look forward to many more in the future. There is so much more he can teach, and the more we know the more fun birding will be for us all!
I would love to hear from you as to what’s lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. If you have questions for Karen Franklin, send them to me and I’ll make sure that she gets them. You can write me at 606 Fairview Ave, Lebanon, TN, 37087, or call me at 547-7371 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org