I’ve got half a dozen partially formulated blog posts about life and rehabbing roaming around in my head, but nothing’s quite done baking yet. So while those are still in the oven, I thought I’d entertain (or bore) you with more tales of bad birdwatching.
Being at the wildlife hospital affords me some interesting opportunities to see species I’ve never seen before. It’s not so much that they’re rare species, but because I’m new to the area (as a birder, at least), even a lot of the more common species are unfamiliar to me. And unless you know where to look and what to look for, you don’t necessarily see some of them every day. So, I saw my first hummingbird ever in the exam room (an Anna’s Hummingbird), and my first Cedar Waxwings in the baby bird nursery. I saw my first (juvenile) Green Heron in a 2′ square raptor box (and even in there, he tried to pull the characteristic heron Jedi mind trick: “You don’t see me. I’m a reed. These are not the droids you’re looking for.”) and my first adult one dead on the exam table (where I got to practice administring sub-cu fluids on it).
Now, most birdwatchers would not consider sightings of captives true sightings, and rightly so. The thrill (and the point) of birding is to see these amazing creatures in their natural environment, not in a ward cage. But having seen them there has helped me in my bad-birdwatching endeavors elsewhere. I can get a sense of the jizz of a lot of species just from observing them in the aviaries, and while I haven’t done any official birding since I got here (the binocs are still in their case on the windowsill), I’ve managed to spot quite a few species in and around work/home. I see Flickers almost every day as I walk to and from work and can recognize their burst of spastic energy when they take to the wing. I know that the “crickets” I heard coming from high up in a tree near my apartment the other day was likely a nest of Waxwings. There are lots and lots of Steller’s Jays around, and I often hear them before I see them. Aside from the ubiquitous American Crows and Mallards (who hang out on the “pond” in front of my apartment), I see lots of tit-like Black-capped Chickadees flitting from tree to tree around the community. And the PAWS campus is aswarm in American Robins (whose songs and alarm calls remind me of a less throaty version of our European Blackbirds – not strange since they’re both thrushes). These are all fairly common species, but the big thrill and bad birdwatching triumph was spotting a magnificent Bald Eagle riding the thermals overhead as I was standing waiting for the bus at a local Park & Ride. I haven’t actually seen one of these at PAWS, and while I generally suck at identifying raptors, Bald Eagles are pretty unmistakable. I even managed to get a picture of this one:
Anyway, one of these days I’m hoping to get out there with the binocs and attempt to do some “official” birdwatching. I’m quite taken with the Green Herons so I need to ask the naturalist where would be a good place to go out and see one in the wild and, you know, alive. Until then, I’m keeping my eyes and ears open in the neighborhood for some of the species I’m getting to know in close quarters at work.