Big Year Birding – The Bird that Started It All!

aaaaIMG_1694It all started with an Indigo Bunting.

You’ve probably experienced this too – out with a group of birding friends and someone mentions the first time they really, really knew they loved birdwatching – when they were a small child.   How amazing (and envious) is seems to me that anyone would just “know” as a child that they had found one of their life’s passions.

Well, that person wasn’t me.  I wasn’t a “birder” or “bird watcher” when I was young.  Or when I was a young adult.  I grew up in rural West Virginia, though, and spent a lot of my spare time exploring the Appalachian hills and woods surrounding my home.  I knew the colloquial names for some birds.  A Pied-billed Grebe (or any other small grebe or diving duck, really) was a Didapper.   Pileated Woodpeckers were Wood hens and every soaring hawk was a chicken hawk.  Snipe hunting was a trick we played on our cousins and summer friends from the city.  We’d take them out a night and ask them to hold a flashlight over the opening of a bag or sack to attract the Snipe – and secretly laugh at them as they were mobbed by mosquitos!

Still, my interest in birdwatching was there, hiding just below the surface and waiting for the perfect time to make itself known.  That time came during a springtime trip along the famous Skyline Drive in Virginia.  My wife and I stopped to photograph flowers and couldn’t help but notice several small, dark blue birds flying here and there.

We stopped at the next rest area and bought a copy of Birds of Shenandoah National Park. We thumbed through our new field guide and matched the guide’s photo to our memory – Indigo Bunting!

I was hooked.

When did you become interested in bird watching? Were you one of the lucky ones and just “knew” at an early age? Or were you like me – stumbled upon your interest like finding a lost treasure?

Oh – by the way – the fall migration has started. Go Birding!!

Until next time, Good Birding!




6 thoughts on “Big Year Birding – The Bird that Started It All!

  1. Sandra Keller

    I was 30. Took an Audubon Wildlife Society trip to Forsythe. November of 1993. It was the Buffleheads! Took many years to understand why the leader was so intent on one gull – instead of admiring those cute Bufflehead! It was a Lesser Black-backed. Rare 20 years ago!

  2. Susan Treesh

    I was 45. Funding had dried up for a job I held, and I was not working, after 3 years in NYC and a growing dislike for concrete and noise. I used to hike as a college student, but was afraid to do so in NJ. I drove around looking for natural areas, and stumbled across Scherman-Hoffman, how I don’t know when I consider how hidden it is. I walked the loop alone, no binoculars, and remember sitting down on the path and thinking how beautiful it was. Well, after a few more trips I acquired very cheap binoculars, and ventured out, a bit. One April 25 I was at Van Campen’s Glen. Suddenly I became aware of movements, about 15 feet overhead. It was a stream of little yellow birds, really a stream, running upstream, that continued and continued. I said to some other people there, “Look, look, do you see them?” They saw, but not like I saw.

    “It’s The Migration,” I said to myself, “The Migration!!” I will never forget that day with the shards of brilliant light filtering into the dark glen and occasionally illuminating a sunburst of a bird. And I will NEVER disrespect yellow-rumped warblers!

  3. Gillian

    I was 31. Had just bought a house, put up a birdfeeder, and then bought a field guide to identify the cute little Chipping Sparrows and Mourning Doves that came to my yard. However, I didn’t turn into a *birder* until I went out on a trail with my parents one April and saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a couple of chickadees that were seemingly following us. He was flashing his bright red crown (fortunately for us!) and was the cutest little bird I had ever seen. And he seemed so tame!

    Of course, I had often looked through the field guide before that day and seen photos of the grosbeaks and warblers and vireos, but never thought I’d see anything so colourful or cool. It amazed me that I had actually found something other than a sparrow or chickadee! Even though kinglets are common during migration here in Ottawa, I still love seeing (and hearing) them. Ever since that day I’ve been stalking the trails trying to find other birds that are just as interesting!

    If the Ruby-crowned Kinglet hadn’t been my spark bird, an Indigo Bunting would have worked just as well!


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