What Sparked My Interest in Birding – Part 12

A fallout of warblers sparked Denise’s love of birding:

What sparked my interest in birding back in the 1960’s was an awesome  outfall of “sparks”, the springtime jewelry of migrating warblers in our beautifully flowering antique apple trees in Lynnfield. We were lucky enough to have an overly large lot that included about a dozen full-size Baldwin and Macintosh apple trees, and in the spring of 1965, they exploded in bloom just as clouds of gorgeous warblers migrated up to feed on their pests. I had always  been the child who wanted to stop the car to look at hawks and ducks, but the warblers just blew me away. It’s a good thing I could ride my bike to the  library, and that my grandfather gave me his old hunting binoculars, because  there was no stopping me after that.

Migrating warblers were Denise's "shower of sparks" birds.  photo by jeffreyw

Migrating warblers were Denise’s “shower of sparks” birds. photo by jeffreyw

My only regret is that we only had one car, so I had little access to the birding community. No mentors, no one to help me learn that a Junco  in Massachusetts in June is cool, but common in December. I finally got my license, and my own car, so I could join the BBC and pick up on the finer  points.

Myer was hooked as a youth by the activities at the Boston Museum of Science:

I have always been interested in nature, and in my adolescence I Joined the Museum of Science in Boston. I went on field trips, was a Junior entomologist, and became a Junior volunteer in their animal room.  I guess what started birding was that one of the adult leaders would take the volunteers out to Mount Auburn Cemetery, where we would identify birds.  I remember being on the dock at the Museum of Science and a Great Black-backed Gull landed on the dock, and got everybody excited since at that time the Great Black-backed Gull was a rarity.

A "rare-at-the-time" Great Black-backed Gull was on of Myer's early spark birds.  photo by Dendroica cerulea

A “rare-at-the-time” Great Black-backed Gull was on of Myer’s early spark birds. photo by Dendroica cerulea

I continued on an off birding from many years and then took a course that Mass Audubon and Wayne Peterson presented on beginning birding and have continued birding since then.  My interest in the photography side of birding began with a course that the Cornell Living Bird Laboratory had on bird photography.

Since I have retired, I have been fulfilling my passions, for both photography and birding.

After several birding sparks over the years, a dog got Jim serious about birding:

First notice: I spotted a Blackburnian Warbler high in the ash tree across from my house in Nahant. I was about 20, and open to all kinds of new experiences. I didn’t pursue it, but was observant and noticed birds with heightened attention.

Second: Camping in Morro Bay, CA. in 1977. My ex-in-laws were all excited about the great blue heron rookery in the Eucalyptus trees. It was impressive. Having moved from Nahant, MA to California, I was flooded with new experiences. Birds were a part of that – magpies, thrashers, road runners, kites, dippers – all “early birds” for me thanks to California.Then a long hiatus while I raised a family and life happened.

Third: In 2007 we rescued a 9-year-old dog around Christmas time. I started taking notice of the ocean ducks on our walks. The dog was old, slow and very patient, and a wonderful casual birding companion. (Some North Shore Massbirders will remember her.) I figured that if I was going to be out in this crummy weather at least 3 times a day, I might as well have a “project:” learn about those ducks. I did, slowly but surely. By January 2009 I was really into it. One Sunday, I joined Bob Mayer for a Jamaica Pond walk.  Afterwards, I took the dog for a walk when we spotted a Common Shelduck off Little Nahant. The subsequent reaction of the birding community was revelatory, and fun!

Interestingly, for me, as a musician as well, many memories are linked to either birds or music. In the way a song can evoke not just a memory, but a full sensory experience of a lost time and place, many life milestones are intertwined with my memory of birds: seeing a golden eagle through a sunroof, while driving through South Dakota on my way to a new life in California; that first Blackburnian; watching the pelicans dive at Avila Beach as an undergrad with a beach-friendly schedule at Cal Poly SLO; the red-headed woodpecker at the Lake Michigan campground where I camped on yet another cross-country trip; the meadowlarks and yellow-headed blackbirds singing as I drove through the Midwest on my way home.

A warbler fallout also sparked Linda’s interest in birding:

My fascination with birds began with a sudden and powerful spark. As a young child I was always interested in animals, bringing home all kinds of stray critters or injured birds. However, being a city kid, the birds I saw were mainly pigeons and house sparrows.

The Spark that ignited my love of birds happened when I was in my early 20’s. I had decided to plant a garden at my parents new home in Chelsea. The house was located on the side of a steep hill, called Powder Horn Hill. One lovely spring day I was working in the garden and stopped to rest. I sat on the top of the hillside overlooking some trees and shrubs. Wow! Right before me was a “warbler fallout” at eye level. What were these gorgeous colorful gems moving about in the leaves? I never knew such beautiful birds existed. And they were singing. I dashed to the local drugstore and bought a Golden Guide to birds. I returned to the hillside with the book and my parents old binoculars. Finally, I matched a bird with a picture! It had a name. I actually knew it was a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Incredible. What a great feeling. I went on to identify another and another. I looked through the book – there were so many birds. How could I find them? That was the beginning of a new lifetime passion – learning about birds and the miracle of migration.

A Black-throated Blue Warbler was one of the first birds Linda identified by herself.  photo by dickmfield

A Black-throated Blue Warbler was one of the first birds Linda identified by herself. photo by dickmfield

For the next few years I birded alone since I didn’t know any birders and wasn’t sure that many people actually watched birds. I birded whenever I could, but at that stage of my life, much of my non-working time was spent socializing. It wasn’t until I was a stay-at-home mom, raising my new son, that I  decided to find other “bird people”. What a great community! I love sharing the joys of birding and the fun and excitement of a quest. I also still love birding alone: I can wander, listen quietly and track down a song. Admire a bird for as long as I wish.

Birding has led me to many fascinating places in the world to see incredible birds. I also continue to find great rewards here in the northeast, where migration provides an ever-changing show. When I come upon a familiar migrant species for the first time each season I find myself actually smiling and with a sense of relief, I think “Hi, it’s you. So glad you’re back.”  So many great memories.

Initial Post   Responses:  Part 1    Part 2   Part 3   Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8   Part 9  Part 10  Part 11

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