This morning a Blue Jay welcomed me to work. Actually, he was scouting around under the industrial trash bin in the alley, so I took a closer look at the fellow we called a “Camp Robber” when I was a child.
Last fall I took a bird watching class from Kevin Cook, who exudes a fascinating mix of incredible knowledge and expertise with child-like delight in the subject. He frequently said that to find new birds we needed to go to new places. As a novice bird watcher I learned that my back yard is a great place to find birds, but in this case I’m counting all of Fort Collins as my back yard.
I saw my first “life bird” in Library Park. It was a Northern Flicker climbing up a tree near the old Carnegie Library. They are a common bird, even a pest to some, but the Flicker was new to me. It was a bird I had seen but couldn’t name, so I went into the library, checked out a birding book and took it back to the park. Kevin had told us that any bird walking up a tree belonged to the Woodpecker family, so it didn’t take me too long to identify the Northern Flicker. It was the first of many birds I’ve enjoyed seeing in Library Park, including the Jays, the sparrows and a Downy Woodpecker. The little Mountain Bluebird that many others saw in April eluded me.
In late March I started hearing very raucous birds in the park. They liked to perch at the tops of the trees, making them annoyingly difficult to identify with the naked eye. On April 4 I brought my binoculars to work. That morning a colleague and I walked around the neighborhood following the sound of those birds. We found them, again perched at tree top, near the old stone church on Whedbee Street. I was thrilled to identify Bohemian Waxwings. I loved watching their smaller cousins, Cedar Waxwings, enjoying the fruits of my Crabapple trees in March. So having the pair on my life list is a real coup!
A good bird identification book is essential. I have two; I keep my back yard birding guide and binoculars in the dining room. When I leave the house to bird watch I grab my binoculars, National Geographic field guide to the birds of Western North America, a camera and notebook. I bought a roomy, insulated lunch bag to carry all my birding gear.
Before you invest in a bird identification book, check out what the library has to offer. In addition to the NatGeo guidebooks, we offer Peterson’s, Sibley’s and others. You can find a sampling of our birding resources on our Reading Room webpage, http://read.poudrelibraries.org/books/. Look for Recommended By and click on Backyard Birding & Beyond.
You can catch Kevin Cook on the second Tuesday of the month at Old Town Library. His noon time presentations cover all aspects of Colorado’s great outdoors.
Becky Sheller is a novice bird watcher and an experienced librarian. She’s been a Collection Development Librarian for Poudre River Public Library District for over ten years. In addition to birding she enjoys reading, DVD binging with friends, and traveling.