There was a time when I had the potential of turning into a bird nerd. I use this term with only loving affection. I admire birders, ornithologists and conservationists who do real meaningful work and help make our environment a better place for birds and humans.
It all started one Sunday evening.
We were mindlessly flipping through the remote as you do with a ridiculous subscription of 400 plus channels and nothing to watch, when we came across the documentary, Birders: The Central Park Effect. The New York reference made me stop. Ninety minutes later, birds would never just be the feathered flying creatures overhead who tweet and occasionally crap on your head. Birds became a discovery. An object of joy and wonder.
Overnight, we turned into little birding enthusiasts. We had our first experience at Cabela’s (a whole other post) and bought binoculars, attended our first local Audubon bird walk and made plans for our first Central Park birding trip during spring migration. We would eventually attend an Audubon birding camp for grown ups in Maine and fly to the Galapagos islands to see birds and various indigenous wildlife. For a moment, we were nature geeks.
Birding City Style
Birding in New York City starts with a 7am meet up. A professional guide and about 60 birders congregate at the 72nd and Central Park West entrance like a herd of sheep, slowly making our way through the Ramble and settling for a snack at the Boathouse to compare lists and sightings.
Central Park is a respite for migrating birds overhead who see nothing but concrete jungle until they see 843 acres of green below where they can take a breath, drink some water and belt out a few tunes before continuing south. We documented sightings upwards of 40+ birds in one morning. Even as newbs, we were recognizing vireos, nuthatches, warblers, thrashers, chickadees. We rewarded ourselves with lunch in K-town. A plate of pork mandu (dumplings) and piping hot “tubu chigae” (tofu stew) to refresh our weary eyes. Bliss for the #interculture set.
Take it Outside
For me, birding made me feel like a kid again. I was in my mid-30s and learning something new for the first time. I was a city girl walking through nature. Birds became living art forms of spectacular colors and glorious song within an outdoor museum. Birds are also a challenge. Those suckers move so fast. You’ll never spot them all and no matter where you go in the world, there are new ones to seek out.
We just took SJ on her first local bird walk, and it was my first bird walk since being pregnant. It’s not easy birding with a toddler who’s unpredictable movements and loud shrill can scare away birds and frustrate fellow birders. But she did well enough. She had more fun toting around kid binoculars and collecting flowers. It was nice to be outside and walk on trails and around creeks with her.
I’ll never be an expert in birds and understand migration patterns or ornithological anatomy. But I have gained an appreciation for my natural surroundings and am humbled by its unpredictable presence. We need to respect our earth and fight to protect it now more than ever.
Even though I no longer live in the city and now have access to nature trails and more green than I did before, there’s still a lazy tendency to stay inside and watch things on screen. Our birding experiment may have started with an HBO documentary but its message got us off the couch and exploring the outdoors. Now that it’s spring I challenge you to get out there. Listen for that tweet – not just the one from your phone.
World Migratory Bird Day is Tuesday May 9th and International Migratory Bird Day is Saturday May 13th. Life gets busy but for just a moment look up and listen to the birds overhead. Wish them a safe journey as they fly by.