Why Pete Dunne is enchanted by birds

So, reader, when was the final time you went birdwatching?

Not chasing some mega rarity.

Not scanning flocks of shorebirds in the hunt for some species that, in response to typical considering, shouldn’t be there.

Simply watching birds for the delight it brings. It’s my favourite model of hen research, and more and more, it’s the solely type of hen research I follow: simply good old school birdwatching.

Having survived my very own avocational adolescence (my itemizing/chasing progress spurt), which was (I confess) arrested for a few years, I discover myself of late merely watching birds as I did in my youth, for pleasure and perception. Massed Purple Martins in August: mesmerizing. Searching Quick-eared Owls in January: fascinating. Feeding Home Sparrows year-round: all grist for my bird-appreciating mill.

Final Might, I went to the Heislerville impoundments in southern New Jersey virtually every day to check the foraging methods of Least, Semipalmated, and White-rumped Sandpipers. Leasts wish to preserve their toes dry, Semis favor moist mud, and White-rumpeds feed proper as much as the gunnels in shallow water.

You need to discover a White-rumped? Look to the wetter facet of the flock.

My favourite shorebird-viewing vantage level supplied drive-up proximity to birds and windows-closed safety from the clouds of no-see-ums that infest Heislerville when the wind falls.

Not too a few years in the past, I didn’t have the latitude to interact in such leisurely research. My Mays had been indentured to the frenetic have to scout out species to tie down for our World Sequence of Birding large day run. Heislerville in these days was our main cease for (probably) Curlew Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, plus (hopefully) Lesser Yellowlegs. All these hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers I get pleasure from in the present day simply acquired in the best way of significant scanning. Now I relish the feeding flock because the apex birding reward of the season.

Sooner or later final Might, I observed a clot of birders crowded round a phragmites-encased pool about 50 yards from my vantage level. It was evident they had been trying to find one thing. Noting my curiosity in shorebirds, one of many group sidled as much as my door to tell me I used to be wanting within the mistaken spot. “The Little Stint,” he suggested, favored the small pool the place the group had gathered. I thanked him for his steerage and went again to finding out sandpiper conduct. Stunned by my nonchalance, the gentleman concluded I didn’t admire the importance of his disclosure, explaining {that a} Little Stint was a Eurasian sandpiper “not often present in North America.”

“Sure,” I agreed, “thanks for the tip.” I may need added, however didn’t, “I’ve seen them on 4 continents, together with this one.”

There was a time (and never way back) once I may need raced to see the stint, however now, I discover it extra gratifying to search out my very own birds. Probabilities had been the stint would finally wander to the pool I used to be finding out anyway. Apart from, I a lot favor to see hen species inside their regular vary than to hunt out the odd wayward peep with an internal ear dysfunction.

I’m completely content material watching the feeding conduct of home-grown sandpipers and the way their method differs from the Semipalmated Plovers amongst them. Plovers stroll, cease, decide like robins. Sandpipers feed and probe on the run, frantic for the subsequent marine worm. Because the tide covers the flats, increasingly more birds swarm into the swimming pools, and the amount of feeding birds will increase (as do territorial squabbles). The sound of feeding sandpipers is soothing, soulful, and their indifference to my presence endearing. And it’s not as if my leisurely research will simply go on and on. By June, the feeding throngs will likely be gone, apportioned throughout the Arctic the place they breed, and the curtain will fall upon my research of shorebirds. In summer time, my curiosity will fall upon the subsequent reward of the season: Clapper Rail chicks navigating paths as skinny as a rail or Barn Swallows making cookie-cutter patterns over nest-pocked platforms. Then, come July, Ma Nature begins serving up southbound dowitchers that probe the flats with metronome regularity. It’s mesmerizing and affirming.

A few a long time in the past, I had a dialog with a California birder, a retired doctor and one of many architects of contemporary birding. His life listing was method up within the nosebleed part. He assessed his lifetime of chasing and itemizing this fashion: “Properly, I’ve seen all of them. However now I need to return and see all of them once more, and this time actually get pleasure from them.” He was already in his 80s; I hope he acquired his want.

Me? I can not depend on the chance to see them once more, so I try to “actually get pleasure from” each hen I see the primary time. Each encounter is exclusive and presents the chance to study some new side of the hen’s life (regardless of how frequent it might be or what number of occasions I’ll have seen one).

This existential focus was finest expressed by my good friend Steve Ingraham, who, when apprised that the hen the group was attempting to get a have a look at was a robin, exclaimed with exaggerated glee: “That’s a life hen for me.”

“You’ve by no means seen a robin?” an incredulous member of the group challenged.

“I’ve by no means seen this one,” Steve defined mildly.

Properly stated, Steve. Bravo!

I had a considerably associated encounter with a birder in Cave Creek, Arizona, someday whereas being enchanted by a Painted Redstart, an Arizona specialty. Noting my attentiveness, a neighborhood birder approached and requested whether or not I “had” the redstart?

I’m one now, I replied. “No, not Painted Redstart,” she admonished, making clear that she referred to an American Redstart that been reported.

“Sorry,” I replied, “it seems the universe serves up Painted Redstarts right here in the present day. If you wish to see an American Redstart, I’d attempt northern New Jersey. We develop them there.”

Sure, I used to be being obtuse, and he or she went off in the hunt for the wayward redstart. I hope she was profitable and as gratified by her redstart as I used to be with mine, a designer hen that I first aspired to see method again in my youth when, given my circumstances, a visit to Arizona appeared as doubtless as a visit to the moon.

Now on to the Crimson-faced Warbler, one other Arizona specialty value savoring.

So, I’m anti-listing? Heavens no. That may be as foolish as being anti-baseball playing cards. What I’m is professional birdwatching. Strive it.

This text seems within the Might/June 2023 difficulty of BirdWatching journal.

Read more columns by Pete Dunne

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