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 looking for some species that, in accordance with typical pondering, shouldn’t be there.

Simply watching birds for the delight it brings. It’s my favourite model of chook examine, and more and more, it’s the solely type of chook examine I follow: simply good old style 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. Looking Brief-eared Owls in January: fascinating. Feeding Home Sparrows year-round: all grist for my bird-appreciating mill.

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

You wish 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 examine. My Mays had been indentured to the frenetic must scout out species to tie down for our World Collection of Birding large day run. Heislerville in these days was our major cease for (presumably) Curlew Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, plus (hopefully) Lesser Yellowlegs. All these 1000’s of Semipalmated Sandpipers I take pleasure in right this moment simply received in the best way of great scanning. Now I relish the feeding flock because the apex birding present of the season.

Someday final Could, I seen a clot of birders crowded round a phragmites-encased pool about 50 yards from my vantage level. It was evident they had been looking for 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 improper 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 learning sandpiper habits. Stunned by my nonchalance, the gentleman concluded I didn’t respect the importance of his disclosure, explaining {that a} Little Stint was a Eurasian sandpiper “hardly ever present in North America.”

“Sure,” I agreed, “thanks for the tip.” I might 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 might need raced to see the stint, however now, I discover it extra gratifying to seek out my very own birds. Probabilities had been the stint would finally wander to the pool I used to be learning anyway. Apart from, I a lot choose to see chook species inside their regular vary than to hunt out the odd wayward peep with an interior ear dysfunction.

I’m completely content material watching the feeding habits of home-grown sandpipers and the way their approach differs from the Semipalmated Plovers amongst them. Plovers stroll, cease, choose like robins. Sandpipers feed and probe on the run, frantic for the following marine worm. Because the tide covers the flats, increasingly 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 examine will simply go on and on. By June, the feeding throngs shall be gone, apportioned throughout the Arctic the place they breed, and the curtain will fall upon my examine of shorebirds. In summer season, my curiosity will fall upon the following present 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 means 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 wish to return and see all of them once more, and this time actually take pleasure in them.” He was already in his 80s; I hope he received his want.

Me? I can’t depend on the chance to see them another time, so I attempt to “actually take pleasure in” each chook I see the primary time. Each encounter is exclusive and presents the chance to study some new side of the chook’s life (irrespective of how frequent it could be or what number of instances I’ll have seen one).

This existential focus was finest expressed by my buddy Steve Ingraham, who, when apprised that the chook the group was attempting to get a have a look at was a robin, exclaimed with exaggerated glee: “That’s a life chook 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 mentioned, 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 taking a look at 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 right this moment. If you wish to see an American Redstart, I’d strive northern New Jersey. We develop them there.”

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

Now on to the Purple-faced Warbler, one other Arizona specialty price savoring.

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

This text seems within the Could/June 2023 challenge of BirdWatching journal.

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