cropped-cropped-dsc_0819.jpgI 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.

Bald Eagle
Adult Bald Eagle over the West Branch of the Susquehanna near Sunbury, PA

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.


Juvenile Coopers Hawk, Cape May NJ

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.


21 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    I love birding as well. If I had the ability to take a tour I would. Fortunately I live along the migratory route of the boreal songbirds. A relatively short distance from here (London, ON) are several funnels for warblers, among others. I have seen many a warbler in May just by going down to the Lake Erie shore. It is one of my great pleasures.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      I have noticed there are a lot of birder poets, well, not nearly so many as birder/scientists, but some are all three. Something about wings and language…


    2. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

      Yes. And I think there is also something about bird songs and bird plummage (color!) that brings poets and birders together in the same body.


    3. sonofwalt says:

      YES! The song. Interesting that I hadn’t thought of that. Music. The omission on my part is probably because I was a hawk watcher first, and then a water fowl lover. . . I am still learning the songs, and I have so much to learn.


    4. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

      I started with cardinals and chickadees in my parents’ backyard. The sight of cardinals in the snow really set me on my way. And I also love catbirds and mockingbirds who can imitate pretty much anything.


    5. sonofwalt says:

      My first fascination was with a red tailed hawk circling over my campsite on the Black Forest Trail in north central Pennsylvania. I went to the library to see what kind of hawk it was, and was surprised to find how many different birds of prey were indigenous to my area. It was like discovering a new world. I was 17.


    6. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

      The great thing about trying to identify birds (or plants, for that matter) is that I often have to look and look again because when I think I have understood the “whatness” of the bird I find I’ve missed something or only begun to touch on the possibilities.

      My wife likes to comment that the color of a male mallard’s head (that perfect green that isn’t just green but also purple, blue, black and more) is perhaps her favorite color of all. What she loves about it is that it is not a stagnant or flat color. I find birding reminds me of this all of the time.


    7. sonofwalt says:

      Yes, and even when I recognize a bird by plumage, or shape, or flight pattern, there is always some new surprise, some behavior I hadn’t witnessed before, or a location where I did not expect to find the bird. Imagine my glee when two black vultures flew over my car last year. Until recently we thought the northern most territory of the black vultures was a couple of hours south of here. I’ve been seeing them more and more, so their territory seems to be expanding.


    8. SoundEagle says:

      The lyrebird in Australia is as good as or better than catbirds and mockingbirds in imitating sounds, not to mention its plumage that is similar to that of the bird of paradise. The lyrebird is the emblem of the Conservatorium of Music at Griffith University, of which SoundEagle is a graduate.


    9. I would just LOVE to go birding in Australia!


    10. SoundEagle says:

      HaHa! It’s a long way away . . . .

      By the way, samples of my music can be auditioned at my blog. You’ll hear the call of a familiar species of bird in one of those samples. Please enjoy!


  2. Warren says:

    Hi there, great looking blog. Any interesting bird pics? I would like to know what kinds of birds are down your way!


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Not many. I’m not much of a photographer. I have a few pics of local bald eagles, but I use my scope and binoculars more than anything. It was the ex bf who was the photographer. 🙂


  3. Come to San Francisco and count the hawks on Hawk Hill in the headlands. I’m sure you would love it!


    1. sonofwalt says:

      I would! You know this is a really great idea for a west coast trip with me. I’ll break out Pete Dunn’s Hawks in Flight to see when timing is good. When is your favorite time to hawk watch?
      Thank you for visiting here, Jilanne!


  4. I think this site should contain all you need to know.

    We don’t volunteer for the “official” counting. We just go on hikes through the headlands and check out whatever flies by. And when we go to Mt. Tam, it’s lovely to watch them sail up and down the sides of the mountain.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      I’m very familiar with the ridge and valley region here in Pennsylvania, and have experimented with a few far off hot spots of my own. It would be fun to study a bit of your terrain and lore and see what I can find. Thanks for the link and the inspiration! 🙂


  5. I would say you’re more than just an enthusiastic birder if you’ve managed to spot a flock of toucans in the jungles of Belize!


    1. Well, thank you! Pleased to meet you, by the way. Well, I am always cautious. I don’t get to spend a lot of time birding, but when I do I give it all my attention, whether it’s a day on the ridge during hawk migration, or a horse-back ride through a jungle. But I don’t presume to talk as those who spend their whole lives pursuing birds.


  6. Brian Dean Powers says:

    I just finished reading a chapbook by George Young called “Bird of Paradise.” There are 22 poems, all about birds and all well-written. It’s published by Parallel Press at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will have to add that to my list! Thanks, Brian.


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