Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Way back in the pre-parenting dark ages I developed a sudden interest in birding. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I suddenly started seeing all the birds around me and actually caring what they were. I think it's a family thing as all the women on my mom's side of the family know (or knew) their birds and knew them well. I purchased a number of reference books and pored over them, absorbing information about habitat and calls. I remember dreaming about birds at various times. I had a pretty good life list going back then but it all came to a screeching halt once kids entered my life as they really aren't the best birding companions.
We took a trip with friends to Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge today and it was a birder's paradise with marshy areas, open water, grasslands, and forest. Amazingly, I even remembered to bring along my binoculars and a field guide. We saw all kinds of things: herons, egrets, doves, swallows, flycatchers, and more. But when a large brown bird took off from the cattails, I was stumped. The boys had run ahead with the field guide so it took me a while to look it up and, lo and behold, it was one of these:The American Bittern is not particularly rare, but they're shy and not easy to spot. They always looked so endearing in the bird books as they are usually shown holding their bills aloft in an attempt to look like pond grass. I'd never thought about what they might look like flying, but there was no doubt that's what I'd seen. This was a bird I'd always wanted to see so it felt like quite a triumph once I identified it.
Our outing was lovely. No rain, but no hot sun, either. At 4.2 miles, the walk turned out to be just a bit longer than the 1.5 we'd planned on, but we started out in the wrong place and by the time we realized our error we were far enough along the trail that it made no sense to go back. The kids whined and I ended up carrying The Princess for the last of it, but it was a fine spring outing nonetheless.