Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reaching Out to the Little Ones

    In a country where technology is increasingly becoming an obsession, it's comforting to see little children experiencing the joys of nature. I help out at my brother and sister's school on Tuesdays, and today the Primary class and I went outside for our regular nature notebook session. Together, we discovered a Killdeer nest with four eggs in one of the dirt garden beds. The kids were very excited, and I used this as an opportunity to teach them not just a little about Killdeers but also about birds in general. For example, at one point the Killdeer sitting on the nest had its mouth open, so I asked the kids, "Why do you think it's doing that?" Most of them answered the same. "Probably because it's about to call." I explained that birds can't sweat, so, like dogs, they pant to keep cool. (Good thing too, because it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside!) None of the children knew this, and they quickly wrote it down in their journals.

    Not all kids are receptive to nature, so I'm very blessed that these children have a willingness to learn and discover new things. I'm also very thrilled and even humbled when they come to me with questions about birds, butterflies, or plants. Their curiosity livens me and gives me the same vigor I remember having when I first started birding. Who knows...perhaps one of them will become a birder someday...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers Up Close

    There's a road not far from our house called Lytle Creek Road. At a glance, it's nothing special, with old weathered barns, rusty barbed wire fences, and lazy cattle. This street looks like a normal, two-lane country road, but the birds apparently think otherwise. Every summer, multiple pairs of Grasshopper Sparrows, Loggerhead Shrikes, and Blue Grosbeaks nest here. These are all spectacular birds, but the real highlight is the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

    There are at least two pairs of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on Lytle Creek Road. One pair is extremely cooperative - and quite possibly the most photogenic Scissor-tails in the world. Sometimes they seem to beg me to take their picture.

    I honestly don't think I could ever grow tired of seeing and photographing these gorgeous birds.

    Wow. Anyway, I just wanted to share a little beauty from the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. 

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    Next week we're heading to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We'll be out there for a while, hopefully seeing lots of awesome birds, so check back in a few weeks for a post about our trip!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Short Tale of Birders & Non-birders

    Birders and non-birders don't always get along. Whose fault is it? Who knows. But on Saturday, April 30, I got to witness one of the uncommon times when birders and non-birders do get along.
    A group of 330 "Western" Willets and 30 American Avocets dropped in at Old Hickory Lake in Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, that's a lot of Willets; in fact, it was a new state high-count! As we birders set up our scopes, 3 non-birders were walking towards the birds to get a closer look. Not good. One of the birders in our group, Melinda Welton, asked them to stop. She explained that these were rare birds in our area and that they were tired after their long journey. She also offered them the opportunity to look at the shorebirds through our scopes. I expected a negative reaction; after all, this was a public beach and people could come and go as they pleased. However, the unexpected happened. The gentleman was actually excited. He hurried over and was absolutely ecstatic as he watched the birds feeding and preening in the scope. The two ladies with him were also amazed, especially after seeing the beautiful avocets. Their excitement carried over when the man even asked to have his photo taken with us! All the while, I believe I was just standing there with my mouth hanging open.
    After they left, I said to Melinda, "I'm surprised at how excited they were, and I can't believe he wanted to take a picture with us."
    And Melinda responded, "It's a memory, and they'll never forget it."

Some of the Willets and American Avocets