I am not an accomplished birder; I’ve never had time or leisure for that, but I am an enthusiastic one and try to weave a birding trip into every vacation. In the mid-eighties, I cut my teeth on diurnal raptors and began as a hawk watcher until a friend from Cape May got me into waterfowl and what I called hawk bait: the beautiful many-colored warblers. I am terrible at recognizing songs though, and the recordings are hard for me to follow. After a while, I cannot remember “bzzeet, bzzeet” from “bee buzz buzz.” I am still most happy and comfortable trying to identify distant birds of prey from a mountain hawk watch.
In Florida, I toured the Saint John’s river where I saw my first Swallow-Tailed Kites and Purple Gallinule. I made sure to pick up a tick as a souvenir while hiking the dunes near Orlando to see the Florida Scrub Jay. In Colorado, I got a look at hummingbirds that are never seen (at least I haven’t seen them) this far east.
My first Toucan was a whole flock that took off ahead of our tour while I horseback riding in the jungles of Belize. I’ll never forget the nesting Peregrine falcons on the quarry cliffs behind Scrabbo Tower above my friend Vincent’s home in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, or the “buzzards” and falcons we saw above the sheep pastures and sea-side cliffs along the North Coast.
For over a decade I enjoyed seeing a wide variety of birds just a short distance from my home where the north branch of the Susquehanna River meets the West Branch. And from the boat or kayak, I enjoyed frequent glimpses of green herons, great blues, egrets, wood ducks, bald eagles, osprey, kingfishers, cormorants and many more.
Since October of 2016, I’ve been living a bit further up the north branch of the river near Wilkes-Barre. I still see plenty of Bald Eagles nearby, and this neighborhood has its share of bird feeders, and therefore Accipiters. My youngest son and I have seen both adult and juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks here. In late May, well after Broad-wing migration, we saw a local Broadie on three different days, right here in the suburban hills.
Down near the river, there are plenty of Catbirds, Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, and Song Sparrows, among others. And we’ve spent a fair amount of time in the woods looking for spring warblers this year and practicing the art of pishing. I am hopeful of learning more songs. I saw a Black and White Warbler (my first in years!) and a Pine Warbler at Eals Preserver on Moosic Mountain, where I also experienced more Eastern Towhees than I have ever seen or heard in my life. We heard plenty of Ovenbirds around Seven Tubs, and have seen both Wood Thrush and Hermit Thrush from Bear Creek Preserve to the old over-grown park of Moon Lake. We pished out into the open a Northern Parula Warbler at the Council Cup lookout, and I know I’m missing some of this spring’s highlights.
While I don’t get the chance to be on the hawk watch as much as I would like, I try to wedge a bird outing into whatever business or pleasure travel I can. In fact Council Cup, just a half an hour down river seems to have been a manned reporting station for fall hawk migration the last couple of years, so I plan to check that out, and hope to report.
Note: No, I don’t take many pictures. Not because I wouldn’t like to, but my optics, for now, are Nikon binoculars and scope. I am big into observing behavior, and for stress-reduction purposes, I’ve preferred to stay in the moment, rather than spend the money on cameras and lenses. Maybe someday.