Sunday, October 14, 2007

My First Organized Bird Walk


A father and his son were fishing. I arrived at the spot early and sat for a while and listened to the leaves rustle like a whisper on a brisk autumn morning. The hour-long drive south was worth it to see Colonel Francis Beatty Park.


Andrea was a terrific guide who arranges field trips for beginning and advanced birders with the Mecklenburg Audubon. In the photo above, she’s the one in the green cap giving binocular tips to a Russian lady who was a real treat to meet. Several of us had binocular trouble. My Bushnells are ancient and as Andrea explained, they are more suited for hawk watching and their power causes distortion. I left them in the car and carried my camera. A few of us shared binocular views and I was astounded to look through a pair of Eagle Optics. The clarity was breathtaking! I’ll be shopping - soon!



Dozens of warblers swarmed overhead and we began a count. During our ninety-minute walk we saw Pine Warblers (lifer), Yellow-Rumped Warblers (lifer), Cardinals, a Kingfisher, a Great Blue Heron, Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, House Finches, American Crows, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, a Carolina Wren, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and someone saw a Junco! I want to add that on campus Friday, I saw an Eastern Wood Pewee (lifer). (Thanks, Julie for the ID)!


I love this photo, minus the cone!

I was the first one to spot a Great Blue Heron flying low above the water near this spot. It wasn’t an appropriate time to take off running for the Heron so I had an out-of-body experience, picturing myself on the edge of the bank following that bird! It took a lot of inner strength to stay with the group instead of announcing, "Ooops. Gotta go!" I had to cooperate and forget about my bird stalking techniques during the entire walk. That was hard, dammit!

Besides yearning for new binoculars, I’m yearning for a new camera… Sigh. I want to get a clear and crisp photo of a Kingfisher across the lake!


It’s a beautiful place. I could have spent several more hours exploring.


Meeting great ladies with similar interests was my pleasure! A few of them learned to distinguish a female Cardinal from a male. I enjoyed helping them.


We learned to recognize bird song and follow its lead. Now I know how well a Phoebe sings.


During our short time together, Andrea included tips on identifying more than birds.


This won’t be my last field trip. I loved it. I want to see the Catawba River and Lake Norman up close. Water. Need to have water.


All weekend, I debated including this episode for fear of being embarrassed. Hey, I’m a good sport, so here it is.

The night before my bird walk, I found two pairs of binoculars that were STRAPLESS! It was after 9pm and I panicked because I knew those straps have probably decomposed in a landfill by now. I scrambled for some sort of replacement.

I received an e-mail from Ruth a few minutes later. She wanted to know if I was ready for my field trip and I told her I was frantic and strapless! Being the thoughtful and rational person she is, she asked me to find a camera strap. Why didn’t I think of that? I found an old Sony camera.


My hand-made strap was so candid and incredibly JUNIOR VARSITY! While I worked on it, I thought, “There’s no way in hell I’ll wear binoculars with one leg of Sheer Energy Support black pantyhose around my neck!” I replaced the silky leg with the Sony strap.


entoto said...

What a great day, Mary! I have never birded with a group. They are always at 5 or 6am. Tom is out the door by then and I work until 10p so that is just not do-able. I figure someday, someday.

I am glad that today was your someday.

NatureWoman said...

What an awesome trip, Mary! It's so fun hanging out with people who love the same things you do, isn't it?

JeanMac said...

Beautiful pics, as usual. I have learned a lot from the pictures. Enjoy, enjoy!

Susan said...

Just thought I'd put in a plug for Eagle Optics binoculars. We bought a pair almost 2 years ago (Ranger model, I think, about $300) and we've been very happy with them.

Cathy said...

I'm thrilled for you, dear Mary. I remember my first 'group birding' and trying to 'get on' the bird that everyone else was seeing but me. You'll meet nice people and cherish the memories created by sharing this endless treasure hunt.

(Hey! That pantyhose jury-rigging is pretty clever. I may carry a pair just in case :0)

Ruth said...

Wow Mary! Sounds like a perfect day to me. You did well getting that Kingfisher. They are so difficult to pin down. Every time I think I may want a better camera, I think about how heavy an SLR with big lenses would be to carry on my neck. I think you are better investing in a good pair of binoculars. It is more relaxing to go birding without a camera, i think. But it is nice to share pics too!

Unknown said...

Mary, Mary.... I'm so glad you had a wonderful day but I'm sitting here with my sides splitting from laughter. You are so creative and don't let anybody tell you you're not.
Spending a day with like minded people doesn't get any better. I bet you felt like a kid inside.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
I've been checking in and out all day to see if you had posted your adventure yet. Way to go, girl! I'm so glad you went and had a good time. And you were even able to help others with your bird knowledge!

Your binocular strap was priceless! It made me LOL. I bet no one would even have noticed anyway.

My main binocs are Eagle Optics, Denali 8 X 42. They're good binoculars for distance and close-up (close focus is 10 feet, I believe, so I can watch birds at my deck feeders while sitting on the deck). Got them at WBU.

LauraHinNJ said...

Glad you enjoyed your first *real* bird trip!

Bet it was nice, too, to be able to be an expert to some of the others along.

I saw someone just last weekend using multicolored yarn as a bin strap! I think your pantyhose idea is much more comfy!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
Oh what joy! Out birding with people who love birds!
You saw so many birds in such a short time. Nice to go out with people who know who is who.
I want a black silk stocking strap! You have inspired me to make new straps for my binocs and camera. You are such a creative, resourceful and extra cool birder.
I also was out birding today, in the rain! I need a few pieces of equipment too. I want rain gear for the camera and a camouflage vest for me.
Glad you had a fun time.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your lifers and attending your first bird walk "field trip"! How awesome and glad you used your sony strap instead of what you had on your binoculars! LOL Can't wait to see so many more post from you adventures!

Mary C said...

Great job, Mary! Quite a few lifers, and it really does make a difference going out with other birders. I'm sure you'll be shopping very soon for a new pair of binoculars. I got myself a new pair of binocs earlier this year: Nikon Monarch 8x42. I really like these. And my other pair I got a few years ago (Christmas present from my husband): Swift UltraLite 8x42 - also very nice.

The Quacks of Life said...

would have been the most unusual strap I've seen on a pair of binoculars.

Chrissie said...

Hello, Mary. Your lake photos are brilliant, and I really enjoyed your bird field trip. Looking forward to more! (the sony strap was prob the best :-})

Alyssa said...

The area you were visiting is beautiful. I love the reflection of the trees in the still water. Weren't there any male birders????
It sounds like you had a really interesting and eye-opening time.

Actually, the pany hose strap was a stroke of genius! You could have started a trend in the birding world!

Can't wait to see your next trip.

Jayne said...

You are simply a jewel Mary! I love your post and am so thrilled you had such a good time on your first outing. Now, I'll have to stick my toe in the water too.

dguzman said...

Oh my gosh, Mary, you remind me of ME. What a wonderful trip for you! I absolutely love going on birding walks, and I don't do it enough. Of course, when one is lucky enough like me to have had one's first birding walk be led by the Science Chimp!, all other walks tend to pale in comparison! Isn't it exciting to be the first one to spot a bird? It always makes me feel like a "real" birder.

I have an ancient pair of Leupolds (9x35 gold-ring series), and they ROCK. They might not be as tiny and cool-looking as some of the newer ones, but their clarity and light-gathering ability is incredible.

Definitely get some good binocs--Eagle definitely makes some good ones.

Mary said...

Sounds like you had a great day Lots of great pictures

Mary said...

Thanks everyone, for your encouragement. Also, I appreciate your tips on binoculars as I'll be browsing soon. By the way, the silky leg strap was very comfortable, and springy.

Susie said...

Looks like such a beautiful setting for birdwatching. I'm amazed at how many different birds you saw.
Your binocular strap was quite creative :)

Melsie14 said...

Mary you take the most beautiful pictures!! I'm glad that you were able to behave yourself and stay with the group!! And the part about the pantyhose strap, that was hilarious!! And to think that after all that worrying you didn't even take them with you!! Hope you do get out there again for one of these outtings!!

Anonymous said...

Mary, I was just leafing through one of those airline catalogs and saw binoculars that also take pictures - how cool would that be?!

Mary said...

Nikkipolani, WHAAAT? Just HOW COOL would THAT be? A dream!

Larry said...

Mary-It's about time!I'm glad it was a good experience for you!Now you've entered a whole new area of birding.-Great descriptions and photos!

KGMom said...

I don't think you need a new camera--you take great pictures with the one you have. It is the eye for the picture that can't be bought that counts.

Susan Gets Native said...

Yay, Mary! I'm glad you liked your first guided bird walk.
I would have kept the panty hose on the bins. But that's me.

A word on binoculars that take pictures: I got one of those for Christmas one year (my first bins) and while the theory is good, I don't know if the technology is ready yet. On my pair, you have to be at least 49 feet away for them to focus.