Go Watch Birds! (And Watch Movies About Birds)

January 18, 2015 at 12:06 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Male Buffleheads taking flight, Silverwood Lake

Male Buffleheads taking flight, Silverwood Lake

Walking around with binoculars and peering intently into trees or across a lake is sure to elicit strange looks.  Sometimes, though, people aren’t just making conversation when they ask, “See anything interesting?”

Male Bufflehead "running" on water during takeoff

Male Bufflehead “running” on water during takeoff

They might not know the names of the “interesting” birds you reeled off, or understand the significance of seeing a Barrow’s goldeneye in a place they’re rarely seen, but they are often very curious about birds they have seen.

Male Barrow's Goldeneye between male and female Common Goldeneye, Silverwood Lake

Male Barrow’s Goldeneye between male and female Common Goldeneye, Silverwood Lake

“What kind of duck has a red head and feathers that stick up on top?” a fisherman asked me yesterday at Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area south of Hesperia, California.

Barrow's Goldeneye male

Barrow’s Goldeneye male

“Well,” I began thoughtfully.  “It sounds like it might be a female common merganser.  They’re pretty big and they have long skinny bills.”  He didn’t think that was it.  I wasn’t sure what else to come up with.  Perhaps it was an eared grebe in breeding plumage?  At any rate, it was what park rangers would call “an interpretive opportunity.”  We talked about birds.

Common Merganser male and female

Common Merganser male and female

I wrote an article for a publication recently about someone trying to get local military personnel interested in birding.  Although there were few takers for the bird field trip, a lady in HR said she loves feeding the birds and described “her” feathered guests.  We had a very animated conversation and I showed her my last blog post of the birds we had seen that day.  “You saw all these birds here?” she exclaimed.  Ah, a curious soul ripe for evangelistic conversion.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker

It’s heartwarming to see young people genuinely interested in birding.  Some take up careers in wildlife biology.  Some simply enjoy birding as a past time, and if they’re lucky they will pass this interest on to their own children.  (As for my son, I’ve been trying to get him to give up mountain climbing for birding, to no avail.)

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub Jay

It’s not just a hobby for little old ladies in tennis shoes.  Most of the hard core birders – the ones who do a “Big Year” – are men.  Many of us keep a life list of all the species we’ve seen in the wild.  Mine is 441 – now 442 with the addition of the oak titmouse I saw yesterday.  That’s about half the species ever seen in the U.S.  Not a very impressive list as birding goes, but I’m pretty proud of it.

Oak Titmouse

Oak Titmouse

Here are some movies that have featured birds or birders.  Anybody care to add to THIS list?

“The Birds” – the Alfred Hitchcock classic (It always pissed me off that birds were villains.)

“The Big Year” – based on the true story of three hard-core birders played by Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.  Great movie.  Even better book.

“A Birder’s Guide to Everything” – geeky teenagers work out personal crises while chasing down a rare bird. Funny, and moving.

“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” – a documentary about a man who cares for a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco.  Fascinating, with a very sweet ending.

“Winged Migration” – a documentary on the migration patterns of birds, filmed from ultralights and various other aerial devices.  The closest we can get to “being” a bird in flight.

“The Birdman of Alcatraz” – Burt Lancaster plays convicted murderer Robert Stroud in this 1962 classic.  His concern for a fallen sparrow in his cell led to his redemption.  Based on a true story.

“March of the Penguins” – one of the most awesome, awe-inspiring, and beautifully done wildlife films ever.  Emperor Penguins struggle to survive in the harsh environment of Antarctica.  Narrated by Morgan Freeman.

“The Legend of Pale Male” – A true story about a red-tailed hawk in Manhattan that “becomes a magnificent obsession and a metaphor for triumph against all odds.”  I’ll have to see this one!

“Kestrel’s Eye” – a beautifully filmed documentary about a family of kestrels.

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” – an oldie.  By the way, there’s no such thing as a “seagull” in bird lingo.  They are all gulls of some type:  Laughing, Bonaparte’s, California, Herring, etc.

Lesser Scaup in flight

Lesser Scaup in flight

We won’t even get into cartoons and animated movies.  So you see, birds have inspired many, mostly for good.  So get yourself a couple of bird feeders, a good field guide, a bird app for your smart phone, a nice set of binoculars and Go Watch Birds! (Or a bird movie.)

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6 Comments

  1. DesertAbba said,

    Envy, envy and more envy from frigid Ohio! We went on a Ohio Ornithological Society outing yesterday to a place for a rapturous Raptor Event and saw only a handful of Harriers, a few Kestrels and a couple of dark morph Rough-legged Hawks, the latter so distant that only the expert birder along could confirm the sighting. I told one of the other participants that I could account for the poor showings; I’ve noticed Wall Street drop noticeably when I invest.

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      Ron, I hope your next outing is more productive. And warmer! No snowy owls up there?

  2. Bella Remy Photography said,

    Lewis’s Woodpecker – now that is a really cool looking bird. Love your bird images and commentary. Funny how easily non birders will look at you and say..what are you looking at? And then the fun begins. 🙂

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      The Lewis’s doesn’t act like a woodpecker in its flight patterns either. There were plenty of acorn woodpeckers there, too but they were too high up. They’re a future project!

  3. Pam Leonard said,

    I’m not a birder, but those are some beauties you’re seeing out there in California, especially those Goldeneyes.

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