Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It started with a woodpecker...

Most likely it was a downy, like this one, but the first entry in my first bird notebook only says "woodpecker." We'd gotten the house-type feeder in the picture above from a relative a month or so before and, after buying some millet, put it in an apple tree outside our screened porch and waited to see what would happen.
First came that woodpecker and then a little gray bird with a crest. Looking it up, I learned to identify the tufted titmouse. That was over a decade ago.
After the birds came the books - we already had Peterson and a Reader's Digest book I called the "idiot's guide" for its simplicity covering the broad swath of nature. Then came, among others, Kaufman, Sibley, Stokes. The more books we got, the more I wanted to see the birds in them. We started buying more feeders, including the suet feeder that drew the downy in the picture. I stopped using millet and started using sunflower seeds. More birds came. I was hooked.
So what started with a woodpecker in the backyard has grown into a fascination with birds across the US. The areas I know best are New York and New Jersey where I've lived and worked, and New England where my husband's family lives. Little by little we have visited different regions including coastal and interior North Carolina and the Florida gulf coast town of Apalachicola and nearby St. George's island. When I visited California for a family party I added 10 new birds just at one place, Ballona Creek at Playa del Rey.
But birding for me is not about numbers, it is about seeing something new and unexpected. A large form in a tree along a highway that turns out to be a redtailed hawk. A bird flying low over a marsh you suddenly realize is a short-eared owl. Your first male bluebird in spring. This is why I enjoy birding, although sometimes the chase makes a fine story.
So as time goes on I'll be writing about the birds, places and what I hope will be interesting stuff. I hope you come along for the ride.
What was your first bird and where did you see it? Let me know at