A while ago, I built a little bar so my wife and I can sit and have our breakfast at a back window. The view overlooks some oak trees, an olive tree and a madrone. Beyond these is a steep slope leading to a creek that runs through the neighborhood. This green area is a great reminder of how close nature is. And it is a haven for birds.
At first, I’d just find myself watching the birds, knowing what a few of them were. Scrub jays, crows, an occasional turkey vulture circling high. My curiosity grew and I picked up a book to help identify more. A pair of red-shouldered hawks frequently hunt through our neighborhood.
Bird behavior was the next stage of research. Scrub jays are incredibly intelligent. They’ll stash food in many hiding places, remembering them all and even knowing the rate of decay for the food, so they can return while it’s still fresh. We’ll frequently see them flying with acorns in their beaks, searching for just the right spot to bury it, wary of any other birds watching.
I bought a monocular so I could still sit at breakfast and observe the active birds. Yellow tanagers are remarkably small and fast. Their groups flash from tree to tree. If the flowers are in season, the hummingbirds come for them.
Then there are the wild turkeys. We have a group of nine that will periodically walk through the back yard on their careful dinosaur feet and dig up meals from the potted plants. We’ll often see their silhouettes in the neighbor’s tall pine tree as they prepare to roost for the night. It’s always a special occasion when these giant birds visit. I’d never known how iridescent and patterned their feathers are.
Sitting at breakfast, I started seeing more and more birds I didn’t recognize. There’s a great app called Merlin that helps identify using a few clues you enter. With that, I’ve logged even more species seen out the back window. Who knew a house finch had such a red face? And that gray bird I thought was a scrub jay was really a northern mockingbird.
There have been times where my food has gone cold as I’d tried to identify the bird I’m seeing, then learn some of its behavior. I hesitate to call it an obsession, but I have been checking out Craigslist and Ebay for high powered binoculars that will fit on my breakfast table.
So, do you have any casual obsessions?