Birding 101

A quick lesson in Birding for Beginners, by a Beginner.

Any time you look outside you see them. Flitting about from tree to tree, zipping in front of your car as you drive down the road, pooping on your window or splattering on the paint, waking you up in the morning with their cacophony, some with a sweet voice, some with a raucous call. Some you recognize, like the Robin, or the Red Wing Blackbird, or even the dreaded Pigeon.

But we have found out that there are many that fly by, and show off their pretty colours, and we have no knowledge of who they are. Sadly many of us don’t even care to find out.

I used to be one of those people who looked out the window and saw all the pretty birds, but then, they were just birds.

Until we got a backyard bird feeder. Suddenly it was “Wow that was pretty, I wonder what it was?”. They actually looked so nice I started to photograph them. Soon, there was another, then another, and more types came to see us, and fatten up on our food. Eventually, we had to ask at a store, what was the best food for these guys (showing the pictures), and of course, each one liked something different. Oh, and a different feeder.

Be careful, (heavy sigh) backyard bird feeding can get kind of expensive.

Once you have that little interest tugging at your mind, it’s time to go someplace where you might find more exotic birds. A zoo is a good start. Or the Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls Ontario. Bring your camera and try to get your best shots.

Of course, you can always go to a nearby park and see what comes out there. It’s cheaper too.

So who knew Birding was a thing? Surprisingly, it is something enjoyed by millions of people around the world, and every year thousands of people make their way to Point Pelee in Southwestern Ontario during the Festival of Birds in May, just to see the birds.

I feel there are 5 steps to becoming a true Birder.

1 – Go out to see the pretty birds, just for the hell of it.

2 – See the birds and take pictures home because they are pretty.

3 – Get serious enough to tag along a few extra kilograms of camera equipment, including but not limited to – multiple zoom lenses or multiple cameras with different lenses, tripods / monopods, flash heads with modifiers, video cameras and sound equipment, and so on.

For some reason, my wife thinks I fall into the 3rd type.

 4 – Study the birds, know their calls, know how they fly, where they will rest, if they are resident or just migrating through. Get up before the crack of dawn to be sure you are where the birds should be, wait in blinds so the birds will come close to you, for that perfect photo to submit to magazines, or online, or just to fill your computer with another bird photo.

5 – You don’t need to take photos anymore. You have all the best shots, and can identify any bird you see. Sometimes you would have a scope with a nice long viewing reach so you can see miles away. Other times you might just be out to record which bird you saw at what time and where. Here, a pad of paper and pen is enough.

These are the real pros. If you want to learn about what bird you are seeing, hang out near them. Especially the nice ones who don’t mind the newbie hanging around (thanks to all who have let us hang out).

Yes, I still consider myself a beginner. I hang around people that know their birds, and I try to sponge as much information from them as possible. Will I ever be good enough to get to step 5? Maybe over time, but I’m not in a hurry. Once I can’t carry the extra weight of cameras, tripods, binoculars, thermos of tea, pockets full of snacks, and an extra sweater or jacket, well, we will see.

Now it’s your turn. Go outside, forget about the Alfred Hitchcock movie, and check out the birds. It can be pretty Cheep, at least in step 1 and 2.

Till next time, and don’t forget to Follow me so you can get updates automatically.

Thanks for reading.

Screech Owl being harassed by birds during the Festival of Birds at Point Pelee

Typical About Us page – might be worth a look

First off, welcome to the site. How about getting to know what we are all about.

For a number of years during the Victoria Day holiday in May, my lovely lady and I would make our way to Leamington Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie, to enjoy the Spring Migration of the songbirds through Point Pelee National Park. At the time, we had no ideas that we were Birders, we just liked to see all the pretty birds and take some nice pictures.

When we weren’t spending our time in the park, we would be out gallivanting through the area, seeing what we could see, and tossing around the idea of one day moving down here.

Everyone that we met was so nice, and the weather was almost always so nice, and the landscape, although mostly flat, was just so nice, and the air was so much cleaner than Toronto, and was (you guessed it) so nice.

Back in Toronto we would talk about one day retiring and moving to Southwestern Ontario, and maybe find a house that we could turn into a small nursing home, or maybe a bed and breakfast, or how about an Airbnb. We worked out the style of home that we would like, and what would be nice in the yard, and even when we felt we should make the change. Our goal was when we were in our early 60’s so that we still had the strength to follow our other dreams as well.

Fast forward to the autumn of 2018.

We had originally planned on taking a trip to Iceland and drive the Ring Road, but when we found out that our son and his lady had that on their bucket list, well, we decided to hold off until we could all go together. My lady and I had our time booked for holidays, so we decided to wander down to Pelee to observe the outbound Monarch Butterfly migration.

Apparently, we missed the big push through, by about 2 days. Instead of the thousands of butterflies, we saw maybe 50. Even then, that still was pretty cool.

The weather played against us, and since we had a week in the area, we started driving around and my lady got on her phone and began looking at houses for sale.

We got in touch with James, a realtor with Remax, and he took us to look at a few houses.

In short time, we found a home that we both agreed was perfect for us.

Was it the dream home that we had been thinking and planning about? Nope, not in the least. Much smaller than our dreams, not at all big enough for a nursing home, bed and breakfast or even Airbnb. But it was still perfect for us, and if a couple of people come to visit, there is room for them as well.

Now for the hard part. Going back to Toronto and telling family, friends and employers that our retirement plans have made a bit of an adjustment. No longer were we thinking 65, or even 63 years old, but just a couple of months away instead. Yup, returned from bird and butterfly watching in Pelee in October, and moving out of Toronto to a small town of Amherstburg (Where the heck is that?) by the end of December.

Flurry of activity looking after the sale of the old home, figuring out what we need to take with us, and wondering just how the heck we go about down-sizing, all in the space of a couple of months.

I figured I would be too frazzled to sell all our stuff on Kijiji, so we hired Max Sold to come in and auction off the stuff we didn’t need. They did a great job, and we got rid of most of what was up for sale.

So, here we are, at the end of the Detroit River, as it enters Lake Erie, in our perfect (for us) little home, with just a tiny bit of grass in the front yard, that our neighbour and my lady compete to cut first, and our back yard that has a nice deck and no grass, much, much smaller than we had in Toronto. We have great neighbours that are willing to help out anywhere they can, and we are learning to live our lives at a much slower pace.

We have officially become Birders and many of my posts will be about the birds, but we will still let you know about all the other goings-on in and around Amherstburg and the rest of our little adventures.

Thanks to Adam, who helped me get going with this Blog / Social Media thingy.

Thanks for checking in. There will be more to come soon.

Noel and Juliette.