THOUGHTS, ANNOUNCEMENTS, AND FATHER’S DAY BIRDING!
Those that know me, know that my Father and I are a bit of a duo. We travel the country together on all kinds of adventures. We’ve seen Great Gray Owls in the bogs of northern Minnesota, massive Elk that roam the worn down mountains of Pennsylvania, and Atlantic Puffins on a remote island off the coasts of Maine. We always grab the cameras and go out for Father’s day. This year’s trip was quite close to home.
I spent a large portion of my youth in Blue Rock, Ohio. Just south of another small town, Blue Rock is more a network of hills and scatter homes than a town. Farms dot the landscape, separated in many places by old homesteads now empty, left to be reclaimed by nature. I roamed this area and these hills. I played, explored, and found my first spark for birds here. My father kept bird feeders around our trailer, and we were often visited by Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings. We even hosted a Scarlet Tanager one year!
Fast forward to 2017. It’s Father’s day. Bright and sunny, the temperature quickly raced upwards. Dad and I decided to visit an area that I’d been told about by a friend a couple of months before. A massive area of grassland fields, once torn down to dirt and rock for coal but now reclaimed. We had two target birds. The Blue Grosbeak would be a lifer for my Dad, and an Ohio life bird for me, and the Dickcissel.
We arrived and found a vast and beautiful landscape, dotted with scrub bushes and small trees and woodlots. It was a place so quiet and peaceful that even a person with a brain as overactive as my own could slow down and think. The piercing calls of hundreds of Bobolinks were in the air when I opened the door to our car, and I felt at home.
We walked up and down the road, just listening, trying to get a feel for the area and the birds occupying it. Savannah Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolinks, Mockingbirds…all the usual suspects were there. The light was harsh, but we didn’t mind, just happy to be out seeing and photographing birds. We worked our first stop for about an hour and a half, walking up and down the road along the fence line before moving to our next location further down the road. As time moved to mid-day, the birds settled down and rested, and we were inclined to do the same. Driving slowly up and down the road relaxing while listening for the birds.
I faintly heard a bird call that I immediately recognized and jammed on the brakes. After hopping out of the car and quickly searching, there it was. BLUE GROSBEAK. FINALLY! It had been a nemesis bird for me in Ohio for years. Finding one on my own was so incredibly satisfying. Dad and I grabbed our cameras and just sat there, observing the bird for a few minutes. It was a shy bird, but it did show itself on occasions, calling out to a mate further away that I could hear, but not see. Dad and I snapped away, capturing not just photographs of an amazing bird, but memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
After awhile, we moved on, in search of the next bird. We ended up at a small woodlot with an overgrown dirt “road” that lead to a pond at the bottom of a series of hills. This area was quite busy, though most of the birds were buried in the woodlot. I heard White-eyed Vireos, Hooded Warblers, and Baltimore Orioles. The beginning of the dirt road was full of Butterfly Weed. We photographed a few beautiful butterflies and walked on down the path, soaking in the sound of birdsong. An Indigo Bunting pair popped up in the scrub bushes, obviously not thrilled at our intrusion. We observed them for a few minutes, and then made some photographs and moved on, leaving them to tend to their nest and territory.
We ended the day without finding our lifer Dickcissel. I was initially disappointed, but as always, we came to the conclusion that it was yet another reason to come back to this beautiful place. As the day drew to a close we parked the car on a hilltop overlooking the fences and fields to watch the sun set. Mother nature gifted us with spectacular colors and a light breeze. It was a wonderful and memorable ending to a great day spent with a great man.
Which leads me to an important thought. Birding is an amazing thing. Simple yet complex. We all have love and passion for finding and seeing birds. Many of us love photographing them. We love the travel and the landscapes. It would be quite easy for us to stop that thought process there and be content. But let’s take it a few steps further today and really think about on a deeper level. Think of the people in your circle. Your every day friends that you love, care, and talk to often. I’d wager that for many of you, those folks are people with the same passions. Birds, wildlife, nature.
Connection is the key. Community. This is where it all comes together. Going out and seeing birds is for some a solo activity. But for many, it’s not just the birds, it’s the PEOPLE that matter as well. Birds bring us happiness and excitement. But they also bring us friendships and ideals that last lifetimes. They bring us connections that care not for the conventional social precepts, but unite us under a broad banner. It’s an amazing thing that I think about often, and am eternally grateful for. I’ve gained a whole new family because I saw a Bald Eagle five years ago. How incredible is that!
With this in mind, I’d like to announce something that we here at Wildside have been working on. Community and connection are such a major part of what we do as a business, but who we are as people. We want to bring more people together, into our circle. Soon, we’ll be launching a Wildside Nature Tours Facebook group, and we’d love for ALL of you to be a part of it. We are creating an online community where you can come and share your stories and love of birds. Your experiences with us and tours. We’ll be working hard to offer all kinds of amazing things for this community. You will find not only my blog, but articles from all over the world concerning birds, wildlife, and conservation. Photographs and stories from remote parts of the world showcasing the birds and other wildlife we see. Tips and tricks on many topics, from feeding backyard birds to how to photograph them. We want to create an inclusive community where all are welcome and encouraged to engage in discussion and share their thoughts. It’s a truly exciting time, and we’re excited to give back to our clients and followers! I will be working to get it running over the next few days, but in the mean time be sure to search for the group on Facebook and ask to join. We’ll be adding all kinds of other neat things to the group as time goes on. Get involved!
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