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 in quest of some species that, in keeping with typical considering, shouldn’t be there.

Simply watching birds for the delight it brings. It’s my favourite model of chicken research, and more and more, it’s the solely type of chicken research I apply: simply good old school birdwatching.

Having survived my very own avocational adolescence (my itemizing/chasing development 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. Searching Quick-eared Owls in January: fascinating. Feeding Home Sparrows year-round: all grist for my bird-appreciating mill.

Final Might, 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 provided 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 research. My Mays had been indentured to the frenetic have to scout out species to tie down for our World Collection of Birding massive day run. Heislerville in these days was our major cease for (presumably) Curlew Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, plus (hopefully) Lesser Yellowlegs. All these hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers I get pleasure from at the moment simply bought in the way in which of significant scanning. Now I relish the feeding flock because the apex birding reward of the season.

At some point final Might, I observed a clot of birders crowded round a phragmites-encased pool about 50 yards from my vantage level. It was evident they had been trying to find 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 fallacious spot. “The Little Stint,” he suggested, favored the small pool the place the gang had gathered. I thanked him for his steering and went again to finding out sandpiper conduct. Stunned by my nonchalance, the gentleman concluded I didn’t recognize 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) after I might need raced to see the stint, however now, I discover it extra gratifying to search out my very own birds. Possibilities had been the stint would finally wander to the pool I used to be finding out anyway. In addition to, I a lot desire to see chicken species inside their regular vary than to hunt out the odd wayward peep with an inside ear dysfunction.

I’m completely content material watching the feeding conduct of home-grown sandpipers and the way their approach differs from the Semipalmated Plovers amongst them. Plovers stroll, cease, decide 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 isn’t as if my leisurely research will simply go on and on. By June, the feeding throngs will probably be gone, apportioned throughout the Arctic the place they breed, and the curtain will fall upon my research of shorebirds. In summer season, my curiosity will fall upon the following reward 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 recent birding. His life listing was method 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 get pleasure from them.” He was already in his 80s; I hope he bought his want.

Me? I can’t depend on the chance to see them over again, so I try to “actually get pleasure from” each chicken I see the primary time. Each encounter is exclusive and presents the chance to be taught some new aspect of the chicken’s life (irrespective of how widespread it could be or what number of instances I could have seen one).

This existential focus was finest expressed by my buddy Steve Ingraham, who, when apprised that the chicken the group was making an attempt to get a take a look at was a robin, exclaimed with exaggerated glee: “That’s a life chicken 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, sooner or later whereas being enchanted by a Painted Redstart, an Arizona specialty. Noting my attentiveness, an area birder approached and requested whether or not I “had” the redstart?

I’m 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 at the moment. If you wish to see an American Redstart, I’d attempt northern New Jersey. We develop them there.”

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

Now on to the Pink-faced Warbler, one other Arizona specialty value savoring.

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

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

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