Ant Farm Natives: Bird Watching

February 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

A few years ago Leigh and I visited Key West on a work related vacation. One of the more memorable moments was during our cruise to the Dry Tortugas National Park. It was a two-hour boat ride out to the islands, and the crowd was a weird mix of young and very old.

Leigh in the Dry Tortugas

Leigh in the Dry Tortugas

As we approached the Park, we learned the reason for the considerable geriatric contingent on board the Yankee Freedom – bird watchers. Apparently, the park is a thriving destination for birders and birds alike, and we happened to be there during a special migration period for some pretty rare fowl. As the crew announced each sighting on the port or starboard, a mob of elderly avian enthusiasts would begin pushing and shoving in slow motion with cameras and field glasses at the ready. It wasn’t until they reported the presence of the vaunted brown-boobie off the port bow that things got really wild. I swear the boat lurched to one side under the weight of the hoard of crazed birders.

Field Guide to BirdsUp until this point in my life, I had no experience with the world of bird watching. It was a very strange thing to behold. So you can imagine my concern when Leigh enthusiastically hung up a few bird feeders in the area outside the patio window and proclaimed that she was going to watch some birds. Her excitement was such that our 8yo daughter even picked up on it and bought her a bird identification guide for Christmas.

Apparently, if you build it (and fill it with food) they will come. It wasn’t a week before a wide range of birds began to show up in the mornings, and a new Ant Farm ritual was born. Every morning we find ourselves eating breakfast over exclamations of new arrivals and arguments over which species have graced our humble feeder. I never would have dreamed a bunch of birds could bring us so much joy, but they have. You would have thought we died and went to heaven the day that the Red Bellied Woodpecker swooped in and strutted his stuff. We are a very hip family…

Here are the birds we’ve positively identified so far (not including your run-of-the-mill cardinals and bluejays):

Chickadee-&-Sparrow

Carolina Chickadee (Left) & Song Sparrow (Right)

Mourning-Dove

Mourning Dove

Dark Eyed Junco (slate colored)

Dark Eyed Junco (slate colored)

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Yellow Throated Vireo

Yellow Throated Vireo

Red-Bellied-Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-Bellied-Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

We’ve also seen a variety of blue bird and a huge hawk took a swipe at a group of vireos, but both sightings happened so fast we weren’t able to identify them.

I used to look out and just see some birds. After a little birdwatching we’ve learned that each species has a different personality and demeanor not too different from people. The vireos are small and fiesty. They’ll fight off much larger birds to hoard the seed. The cardinals are much larger, but they are really skittish and tenative. The titmice (sp?!) are smart and the chickadees are opportunists.

So with my new-found interest in birdwatching, it seems that all I need is some good field glasses, a willingness to shove and a desire to eat at four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’ll be well on my way.

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Ken

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