I am a bird watcher, because I can’t help myself. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. If a bird enters into view, I will stop and look at it. Doesn’t matter if they’re familiar birds either. Canada geese flying overhead, house sparrows noisily chattering as they fly in and out of hedges? Commonplace sights, but I’ll stop and look anyway. Birds are, to me, inherently interesting and entertaining.
Sometimes, my obsession can be problematic. If you think texting or talking on a cell phone while driving causes distraction, how about trying to identify a circling raptor while whizzing down the road at 60 M.P.h.! Birders have plenty of stories about nearly driving off the road while trying to make an ID. You can bird more safely, however, if you rely more on sound than sight. Last summer, driving with windows down, over to Berlin, NH for car service I tallied 35 species, the majority by song and/or call.
My watching doesn’t cease when I’m traveling either. Last weekend I was out in the picturesque Potomac River hamlet of Shepherdstown, WV attending a nephew’s graduation. From the time we left BWI Airport to the time we arrived in Shepherdstown, I had my eyes on the lookout for the local avian population. Throughout our stay I kept my ears and eyes on the alert. The drive by birding was repeated Sunday as we headed back to the airport.
There was no space on the schedule to visit specific birding destinations. Just the same, by the time the jet’s door closed, and we were headed back to Manchester, I had compiled a respectable list without doing anything other than observing what I saw while walking or driving around. This included a red-tailed hawk, black vultures (rarely seen in the Upper Valley), turkey vultures (becoming as common locally as crows), both carolina and house wrens, catbirds, mockingbirds, a great blue heron, chimney swifts, a Baltimore oriole to name a few. And did I mention northern cardinals? I saw more over three days than I might see here in a year. They were as common as house sparrows, seemingly everywhere.
There you have my confession. It’s not on the level of St. Augustine’s, but birders will recognize the obsession. Some day I'll end up in front a meeting saying, “My name is Blake, and I’m a birder.”