We have been back in the States for a month now. As hard as it was to leave the Bahamas early, arriving at springtime has eased the re-entry. It is a season we don’t always get to experience while in the tropics.
Despite the see-sawing temps, wild flowers are blooming all along the roadsides and birds are going a bit nuts in their mating rituals, as one does. I’ve been taking advantage of all of this pomp and spectacle to go out bird watching at every opportunity.
Coastal Georgia was a bit of a puzzle to crack for birding compared to the Great Florida Birding Trail around every corner in Florida. These lowlands are more spread out and wilder, with a commensurate increase in bothersome bugs of all types. If it’s not the no-seeums, it’s the mosquitoes, ants & ticks.
Like me, the truly dedicated venture out, prepared in any case. I’ve found my people.
After a few attempts finding some birding spots on my own, stymied by vast wetlands, park fees or licenses required, I reached out to a local birder on Jekyll Island. Lydia does bird rambles every Thursday and I joined her group for a shorebird primer.
I learned the difference between gulls and terns (round beak vs. flying head down) & dunlins and sanderlings (beak 2x head vs. 1x head). There were nesting pairs of Wilson’s plovers behind protected dunes and some with tags. On the beach-head we observed groups of cormorants, skimmers, terns and sandpipers.
We also visited a few sanctuaries on Jekyll that were just starting to get busy with feeding, breeding and migrations.
Through Lydia, I found the Coastal Georgia Audubon Society had a few weekend field trips planned in the area. Joining these trips, I was introduced to a few woodland areas to return to in search of songbirds and marshes to keep an eye on waterfowl.
My mentors here are amazing. At a turn of the ear they can identify most all of the bird calls in the vicinity. More often than not, we then locate them… they with their binoculars and monocular lenses… me with my telescopic lens and Olympus m4/3 camera.
I’m also learning how and when to use bird calls to lure out some avian friends. It should be used sparingly and ideally not in a nesting environment/season. Amazingly, it really works. Our leader lured out a least bittern and a king rail from the edge of a swamp on one trip.
This has been a window into the next level of birding for me. I learned through a friend that, if we consider it, we each have a "spark” bird that spurred our interest in birding at some point.
When I did think about it, I certainly can remember mine… a black-throated trogon in Panamá that landed right beside me in the jungle and started talking and watching me.
That explains why Trogons are my favorite birds!
This must have been in 2011, so I’ve been at it gradually for about eight years now. One one hand, I’m pleased with how much I already know and can bring to the table. On the other hand, my ears have been mostly left out of the ID’ing equation until now. There is an app for that!