November 3 – December 20, 2020.
The other day as we were walking along the road we stopped and chatted with another camper. Seeing Greg’s binoculars and my camera he asked if we were birders. “Yes,” we replied. “Oh! What have you seen?” he asked.
We rattled off a handful of birds we had spotted the previous day and that morning. This made me think about last spring when we were asked the same questions as we were walking down a road outside of Sedona, AZ. When asked, What have you seen, being relatively new birders, all we could say was, “Uh, birds…”
We used to only be able to ID birds by taking their pictures, hiking back to the van to download them from the camera, uploading them to our iNaturalist app, comparing our shots to other pics on the app, making what we thought was a good ID, and then letting the birding community weigh in and let us know what we got wrong. These days although we still use iNaturalist we have been IDing more birds on sight or consulting our Merlin app (which lists names of birds with their pictures in different regions) while we are still out in the field.
“Out in the field” – we really are starting to sound like real birders!
And now that we are even better at birding it has become even more fun. It is a little like a treasure hunt. We often have a shortlist of birds we’d like to find. I use the iNat app for not only IDing birds but for discovering what other birds have been spotted in the area we happen to be in. When I saw that someone had spotted a Belted King Fisher on the app at Agua Caliente Park, we were there the next morning to find it. Consulting the app feels a little like cheating but as we have learned in the bird world cheating is a sign of intelligence!
Yes, there is a wetland in the desert in Tucson, AZ.
On the west side of the city, off of the I-10 Prince Rd. exit, tucked away behind a nondescript business park are 2.5 miles of pathways lined with cottonwood trees, several ponds flanked by towering cattails and willows, and a world of birds.
The park was originally constructed in 1996 to help treat backwash filter water from the now-closed Roger Road Water Treatment Plant. Today it is like a playground for birders, middle-agers and seniors creeping around with their binoculars and ultra-telephoto lensed cameras. Every once in a while there will be a flurry of excitement. “Did you see the Northern Harrier?” some random birder asks us. “No, where was it?” “Down that path.” And off we’ll go, searching the trees and skies for another birding prize.
Occasionally there are birding tours through the park. Some guy leading a group, stopping every 5 or ten feet, will nonchalantly point left and right out into the distance at birds that seem to appear out of thin air.
People also come to the park to practice more subdued, quieter hobbies like plein air painting. And I’m sure occasionally they come for just a relaxing walk to watch all the nerdy grey-hairs with their big lenses looking across the ponds, up in the trees, and into the sky for birds.
* Click photos to enlarge (they are better that way) and to view in a slideshow.
** Although we have done a lot of posts about birds lately we don’t intend to turn Make Like An Apeman into just a birding blog. I promise there will be some travel posts coming up.
This week I will be sharing this post on My Corner of the World, Travel Tuesday, Wild Bird Wednesday, Through My Lens, and Sharon’s Souvenirs. Check out these links to see what other people are doing all over the world.