Two weeks ago a migrating flock of swallows arrived in our neighborhood and from our high windows we watched them swirl and dart in circular flight above the street corner. I love birds. Who doesn't? It's May, the month when birds return to their northern homes and once again I delight in seeing and hearing them all around me.
But I wouldn't actually call myself a "birder," even though I've written several posts about birds and programs offered by Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. I don't go on birding field trips, keep a notebook, or even own a decent pair of binoculars, but like a lot of people I enjoy observing birds in my own backyard here in Tacoma or in places like Point Defiance Park. When I see a new visitor to our feeders at home I often get out my bird book for identification purposes.
Recently though, my casual interest took a leap as dramatic as a fledgling's from the nest. It happened when I received an email from Pat Leonard at Cornell about the Lab of Ornithology's newly redone All About Birds website. Before I knew it I'd spent about an hour playing with and exploring all the interactive, multimedia features. Now I'm sharing this website with all of you because it's just TOO FUN to keep to myself.
Some of you reading this may already be expert birders but even beginners will gain confidence quickly if they take advantage of all the different aspects of this site. Among them, under the tab "Birding Basics" is a new video series called "Inside Birding" that teaches the four basic Keys to Better Bird Identification: Size and Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior, and Habitat. You'll feel like an expert in no time. But these videos are only four out of so many others I can begin to count them. Be sure to click on the "Living Bird" tab to watch birds in action in their natural surroundings and as you do you'll find an article, map of where they can be found, and plenty of other great features. Then there are the nest web cams. How exciting for kids or adults to see birds live in a nest box, flying in and out or caring for their young.
Have you ever heard a bird song and wondered which species it was? Now you can listen to to beautiful clear recordings of whistles, chirps, and twitters and haunting flute-like sounds and feel like you're out in nature. The Bird Guide's list of 51 common species includes audio tracks too. Eventually all of the more than 500 species in the bird guide will be included in that feature.
Next time you do venture into the fields, forests, or even your own backyard be sure to take your camera. I found a helpful video on photographing birds that gives all kinds of great tips for good results. This site offers even more: articles, photos, maps, etc.
Obviously I'm pretty excited about this. In fact I'm going to quit writing now and say goodbye. I want to check back on that nest cam. I hope you'll take a look at all of these links and let me know if you enjoyed discovering this too. Thanks for reading and a huge "Thank You" to the wonderful people at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Have fun.