Things are slowing down out there in the avian world.
The young have left the nests. The urge to sing has been abandoned in the males so the bushes are quieter than they’ve been for a long time.
And slowly, some of the birds are disappearing while others are gathering in large flocks.
I haven’t seen very many red-winged blackbirds, mountain bluebirds, tree swallows or, for that matter, American robins around lately.
But there are massive flocks of American crows and European starlings all over the place.
Soon they will leave also and we’ll be left with only our old reliables, the winter birds: chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and the like are the only ones brave enough to stay over the winter.
But we birders still go out birding! Can’t keep a birder down, you know. Every Monday afternoon, except for holiday Mondays, from September to April we go out and try to find the birds.
Some days when it is really cold, we’ll invite ourselves into someone’s home and raid their coffee pot while we keep our eyes glued to the feeders outside the windows, waiting for a rarity: the brown creeper or hoary redpoll or even a golden-crowned kinglet.
I have always found that the best way to learn the birds is to go out with other birders.
If you are birdwatching by yourself and you see a bird that you can’t identify, it will probably stay unidentified.
But if you are with a group, chances are someone in that group already knows what that bird is.
If no one does, then the discussion between birders really helps. Some people might have noticed an eye stripe that you didn’t while you noticed a wing bar that someone else didn’t.
With more eyes on that bird, more field marks will be commented on and so you can figure out what species it is. But if it stays as an “LBJ” (Little Brown Job), so be it.
In a perfect world, all birds will sit out in the open and pose for a decent amount of time so that a positive identification can be made.
Seeing as how we don’t live in a perfect world, though, the bird is usually behind a leaf, or on the other side of the tree trunk, or with the sun at its back so that all we get is a silhouette. Such is life. The Red Deer River Naturalists are starting up a new program this year. Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, we’re having walks in the parks for birders of all levels of expertise.
I’m hoping that we will get lots of newcomers come out to see what bird watching is all about.
If we get enough people interested in the first outing, this will turn into a weekly, or by-weekly affair.
If you want to learn more about birds or just want to come out and enjoy them, join me at Kerry Wood Nature Centre at 5 p.m. for an hour-ish walk at the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. I’d like to know how many people are coming so please call ahead of time. Call 403-347-8200 and leave a message or email email@example.com.
Make sure if you do email that you put Tuesday bird walk in the subject line, or else your email might be considered spam and deleted.
Of course, everyone is welcome to come out for the Monday afternoon birding as well.
Just be aware that we go out for a long time; usually coming home as the moon is coming up. We meet at noon at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and again, it’s nice to know who’s coming ahead of time so call or email.
Bring along binoculars, if you have them, snacks and drinks, and, of course, dress for the weather.
Judy Boyd is a naturalist with the Red Deer River Naturalists.