Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Beginning Birding Class

When I received an email promoting a beginning birding class sponsored by the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center I just couldn't resist signing up. Although I've been birding for awhile I was curious to see what an official birding class had to offer. Besides the BV Nature Center is close enough that I can get my nighttime pet bird chores done and still make it on time. So last Wednesday off I went.

First of all, the Nature Center is a pretty cool place. It is set adjacent to Buena Vista Lagoon in Oceanside (northern San Diego County). The Center is primarily devoted to educating children and they do a great job.

There are many bird specimens which really help to appreciate and remember the field marks of those species. Fortunately, the Nature Center has a volunteer who does taxidermy and she offers her services for free. I was very happy to hear that all the specimens were found in a deceased condition within Buena Vista Lagoon. I'm a real bleeding heart and I don't think I could bear hearing that the birds were captured for taxidermy purposes. I'm afraid if that were the case my experience at Buena Vista would have been ruined. I can't help it ... I just don't deal well with animal death. I know I need to be realistic and I am to a point. But the bottom line is I am a real bleeding heart and I struggle dealing with it.

Anyway, the first class was informal because it was combined with a general meeting of the BV Audubon Society. There was a guest speaker from another Nature Center in the San Diego area. She was a very experienced birder who has been birding for about 35 years. While her talk was informal it was interesting and focused on the mystery and magic of birds. A slide presentation of field marks accompanied her talk.

Then last Saturday we had a field trip to the Lagoon area of the Nature Center -- Buena Vista Lagoon, to be exact. The field trip included an informal talk on "Introduction to Birding" focusing on the birds of fresh water wetlands. The field trip began at 8:30 a.m. That meant rushing around to get morning bird chores done before I could leave. I was organized and out the door in time to get to the field trip on time, but in my rush forgot my binoculars. Did I say I was organized? Evidently, not well enough. Sheesh! I thought only I could pull a stunt like that, but found out later that people who've been birding forever have been known to do the same thing. But I really felt foolish and had to rely on the trip leader's scope to see my birds.

Here is the list of what I saw: Pied-billed Grebe, Western Grebe, White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Black-necked Stilt, Ring-billed Gull, Anna's Hummingbird, Cliff Swallow (and their nests under a bridge), American Crow and Marsh Wren. Not bad for standing in one spot for a couple of hours.

We'll have four more class meetings along with field trips. Each field trip will be to a habitat that provides an opportunity to use skills and see the types of birds covered in the previous class meeting. The last field trip will be to participate in the Buena Vista Audubon Society's Birdathon--America's Birdiest City Contest. The Beginning Birder's Class will form a team to participate in this event to test their new skills. Should be fun and a great way to finish the class.

Then on April 15th I'm going to attend a Birding By Ear class also sponsored by BVAS. I'm really looking forward to it because identifying birds by their song will be new to me. I just haven't put much effort toward learning those skills. More on that later.

I should have my new binoculars for the next field trip. I can't wait to get them ... they will be my first real high quality optics. I'm getting an Eagle Optics Bino System Harness strap, too. With that gadget I can hang my binocs around my neck in comfort and without them swinging around. They tell me that these straps are the way to go. So I'll hang my new binocs around my neck before I leave the house. I don't think I could deal with forgetting them twice.

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