Eyes Peeled

I’m not sure at what point I turned the corner to a full-on bird nerd. I’d always casually observed them around my parents and had definitely looked through binoculars at birds, mostly on our annual visits to Florida.

I have a vague recollection of keeping my mouth shut to avoid mockery when my parents were scoping out a pond to see if there were mergansers or wigeons or wood ducks. Ducks, other than mallards? I had honestly assumed they were one and the same. Now I can’t get enough of shovelers and hoodies and the occasional pintail. I squealed the first time I saw harlequin ducks.

I’m not sure what stage of birding I’m in, expertise-wise, but it is hard to walk anywhere without dragging along my binoculars. I’ve also begun stopping, Indiana Jones style, going “Did you hear that?” whenever I hear a new call, song, or promising rustle in the underbrush. (If it is not very much fun to walk with me now, my friends have not said anything.)

My relatively new entry to birding means that I still have weekends where I go hiking and spot 3 new species (yellow-billed cuckoo, Pileated woodpeckers, red-eyed vireo) without a ton of effort. Just the idea that there are interesting birds around has made me more aware of the ecological complexity that exists in a walk through greenery.

While not a bird, I saw this snapping turtle laying eggs on the way to work. One of the benefits of looking around for surprises on any walk, however short.

What wildlife has surprised you lately?

Snapping Turtle
Female snapping turtle laying eggs. Photo by author, June 2017.

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