Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I think it's a... bird

Remember the Steve Martin/Owen Wilson/Jack Black movie, The Big Year? The main characters’ stories play beautifully off each other, the writing and acting are excellent and the scenery is gorgeous. But to get to all that cinematic goodness, the movie-goer had to wrap his brain around seeing a film about birding. Yep, it was about the three bird watchers’ quest to see or hear the most birds in a year.

I loved the movie but couldn’t believe there were people who spent their time crossing the country, looking at birds.

But this week, I meet a real life birder.

Our friend, Stacey, Rebecca’s zoology teacher, took us to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is in the path of several birds’ migration routes, so she said this was a great spot to see lots of different birds. Rebecca, an owl expert, is now learning other types of birds. Stacey is an avid learner, and she’d done lots of research before our trip. My knowledge of birds can fit in a teaspoon – like, I know they fly – so I was merely along as the driver.

There’s a 6 ½ mile auto route we planned to take, and stop when we wanted to see something up close. Turned out we weren't the only ones out on the overcast Monday looking for birds.

Halfway through the route we came upon a woman with a serious scope who was serious about her birds.

She was stopped across from a large water area, so we stopped to see what she was seeing. And she was seeing all kinds of birds. She let us look through her scope as she told us all about the birds on the water.

She was happy to share and said birders love to talk about birds. She seemed pleased someone as young as Rebecca was taking an interest in birds. 

We followed her on the trail, and when she stopped, we stopped. It was a most educational 6.5 miles.

It was also surreal. I mean, I like birds, but I have no idea if I’m looking at a wigeon or a mallard. (Until yesterday, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a wigeon.) But this woman, with bird book in hand, could differentiate birds that looked exactly the same to me by the smallest spot of white on a wing, or shape of the head or beak.

Made me wonder if this is how people feel when they go to car shows with us…

It was an adventure, made more enjoyable because someone who loved birds shared her knowledge with us.

I think it's time to show Rebecca The Big Year. And maybe this time, I’ll appreciate the birds as much as the acting.
  
Our first sighting of the day - a large red-tail hawk.

Rebecca and Stacey, viewing the hawk with their binoculars.

The explorers in front of an eagle's nest.

This is where we met Ms. Birder. The man to the right just happened upon the trail that day and said he was up for an adventure. He was excited to take pictures with his new camera.

Ms. Birder and her friend check out the bird book with Rebecca. The first thing Sean said when he saw this picture: Nice Suburban.

Rebecca looking at... birds.

I figured I should put at least one other picture of a bird here.