Monday, February 19, 2007

Tree-hugging nerd

Ever since we moved to our house in March 2001, I’ve kept a bird feeder. It wasn’t really my idea – it was there, hanging in the weeping cherry tree right outside the huge picture windows in out breakfast nook when we moved in.

The previous owners had filled it with birdseed the morning of our closing and as I stood in the kitchen on our first day stripping that God-awful ivy themed wallpaper from the walls a myriad of beautiful, colorful birds came and went throughout the afternoon. More than once I stood in the window transfixed. I was hooked. As soon as the food in the feeder ran low, I went out and bought our own bag of birdseed and I’ve diligently filled the feeder each day since.

Not long after buying the seed, I bought my first field guide. There were so many birds visiting the feeder each day and I could only name a few varieties without help. The day it arrived I eagerly tore open the package and rushed to the kitchen window and it didn’t take long for me to learn the names of the species that visited the feeder: White-Breasted Nuthatch. Tufted Titmouse. Purple Finch. Rusty-Capped Sparrow. Downy Woodpecker.

The nerd tendencies took control and soon I was keeping a running list in the front of the book of each new species I saw. Yellow-Shafted Flicker. Eastern Bluebird. Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Mourning Dove.

So in early February when I received an e-mail informing me of the Great Backyard Bird Count I instantly signed up. For the past four days I’ve stood at that window for 15 minutes a day counting birds. (My banner day was Sunday when I counted 54 birds from 12 different species).

I know, I know. Why add another thing to my always-too-long to-do list?

Well, for one, the count helps answer many questions including:
* How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?
* How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
* What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
* Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?

And, it was cool in a nerdy kind of way. Loaf sat on my lap pointing and saying “brrr” and “tweet twee,” while Peanut stood nearby happily exclaiming, “Look at all those birds, Mommy! Can I go catch one and put it in my room?”

Conservation and environmental causes are important to Mark and me and we hope our children grow up to feel the same way. Probably the most important way to get them interested is by exhibiting good behavior ourselves. I hope the past four days were a start.

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Blogger ryssee said...

I've always been a bit of a bird girl myself! In fact, when I was little, I told my mom I wanted to BE a bird and she got me a subscription to Ranger Rick! I got my dad a bird book a couple years ago which I now have and use often.
Am jealous of the variety of birds you have. Most of the ones that live around here (and poop on my car) eat FISH! :-p

9:30 PM  

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