The Joys of Birding and Wildlife Photography
Sometime last year I began birding. I have always been interested in nature, wildlife, and the environment, and I suppose this was the next logical step to immerse myself in it further. For my generation listing “birding” or “wildlife photography” as a hobby might be labeled a little odd, but I don’t find the outlandishness in appreciating all the interesting and beautiful things around us. There are plenty of people out there who share in this appreciation, but if you’re not one of them I plead that you give it a chance.
No matter where you live, I assure you there is something out there that you will find intriguing and enjoyable. Taking a hike in the woods or a walk down the side of a river, camping out in a local state park, bird watching, or even reading a book in your town’s local park are all options. There are many others, and I urge you to explore them all. You never know which ones will really grab your interest and imagination.
Despite having an interest in almost all forms of wildlife, birds have been at the forefront for a few very simple reasons. First, they are extremely accessible. And second, there are an enormous variety of birds out there. To be able to see and study the different types and realize how specialized and interesting each of them are in their own way is something truly special.
If you live in a rural area, the sky is limit, no pun intended. Forests are the obvious place to look for everything from songbirds to predatory birds to wood ducks. Lakes, rivers, and streams are homes to other waterfowl, herons, and egrets. Fields and farmland will bring out a plethora of raptors. Hawks, falcons, and owls inhabit the trees and wires on the field edges. If you scan the tree line you will almost surely see a solitary bird of prey waiting to spot a squirrel or mouse.
For those who reside in the suburbs, putting up feeders or bird houses will bring the birds right into your own yard. In the small suburban town I live in, I’ve had American Goldfinches, House Finches, Song Sparrows, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, and plenty of other birds just this past winter. The summer months will bring even more colorful subjects.
Even if you reside in a heavily populated urban area, there are surely birds flying around, even if you have trouble seeing them. American Kestrels nest in the skyscrapers of New York City and city parks nestled between apartments and condos are havens for migrant birds coming through.
The varieties of birds you can see are almost endless. In New Jersey alone I have spotted 60 species of birds within the last 6 months! If you care to look them up, some of them are fascinating. At a local park I have seen Harlequin Ducks, Common Mergansers, Belted Kingfishers, Killdeer, and Lesser Scaup. During a visit to Sandy Hook I observed American Widgeon, Great Blue Herons, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads, and even a Bald Eagle! Red-tailed hawks are a common occurrence, and watching them catch, clean, and eat their prey can be mesmerizing.
With the warmer months approaching, neotropical migrants and other birds will return to their breeding grounds. Here in New Jersey we will have over 400 species throughout the year. The spring will bring back Eastern Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Ospreys, and literally hundreds of other species!
Regardless of where you live, there is plenty to see whether it’s birds, bears, flowers, or just the wonderful landscapes that nature paints. Give the environment around you a chance to impress you – believe me, it will.