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"Birding has become My Passion, I just can't get enough!" Teresa

I have always watched birds feeding in my backyard and I was happy I could identify all of the birds that visited my feeder.  I would have described myself as a birder. 

 

 

The strange bird I observed on the coast of South Carolina was an American Oystercatcher

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Then in March of 2012 I discovered I how little I really knew about birding when I visited the coast of South Carolina and I observed a strange bird for me feeding on the beach. I took some photos of this bird to share with my sister and I was sure I had seen a rare bird.  I was shocked with Karen's quick response that I had seen an American Oystercatcher. I wondered, how had I gotten to be 50 years old without ever seeing this bird and why did my sister know this bird.  This was the start of the never ending drive inside of me to visit places where I can see and identify birds.  

 

I made all of the beginner birding mistakes when Karen and I first started our field trips together.  I spent most of my time speaking too loudly in the field because I was so excited with every bird I saw and repeating the same question.  "What is that?"  I discovered I couldn't even ID birds in the field that I had considered common. For instance I didn't know all of the songs and sounds of a Blue Jay or I had never really studied all of the markings on the female house sparrow.  I tried birding with binoculars but at first I couldn't remember enough of the colors and markings to ID the birds. Instead of binoculars I took a camera with a powerful zoom and took photos and videos of every bird I saw.  This was very time consuming since I essentially knew no birds. To aid in my identification I purchased a Sibley and I studied the Cornell Lab Ornintholgoy site.   I loaded bird song apps on my phone.  I purchased a CD set of Petersons Field Guides Birding by Ear.  

 

I joined my the local birding group. I can't say enough how quickly you can learn birding by going out with really experienced birders.  I appreciate their patience with me as I first started birding.  I had a million questions and couldn't see half of the birds they would see on our field trips.

 

I was just beginning to learn birds when Karen sent an email that I read and closed without much thought.  When she sent the email I had no idea it would start a new love and interest for us to share. A new direction for us both. Karen and I had spent the past years caring for our elderly parents and every conversation involved nursing homes and medications.   The email from Karen came on April 12, 2012.  Karen said: "check out the National Wildlife Refugees map and link  http://www.fws.gov/refuges/ When visiting each state I would like to make an effort to visit that states NWRs"  

 

 

 

National Wildlife Refuge map Karen sent me in an email in April 2012.

 

I looked at the dots and had no idea what Karen was saying.   I went back to the paper work for our parents care and my own work and didn't think about Karen's email or National Wildlife map with the dots again.

 

My first NWR was Shiawassee when Karen and I traveled to Michigan for her son's graduation in April 2012. I had not looked at the National Wildlife Refuge map or bothered to find out what I would see in a National Wildlife Refuge but Karen had visited NWRs in North Carolina so she knew about the visitor centers and the auto drives and hiking trails on the Refuges. The Shiawassee NWR trail we hiked that day took us through the refuge's forested wetland habitat. We observed Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks as well as many other songbirds all in a landscape of tranquil beauty. 

 

Reflections at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

 

I enjoyed Shiawassee NWR so much that I planned to stop at Hatchie NWR in Tenneessee on a trip later that month to visit a friend in Memphis.  I drove around Oneal Lake Wildlife drive and enjoyed the calm waters . Hatchie NWR I didn't have much time so I stayed close to the Visitor Center and drove around the Oneal Lake Wildlife Drive.    

The water in Oneal lake is calm and there are many lotus plants. It was a sunny day and the refuge was silent except for the sounds of nature.  Red-winged Blackbirds were singing their Kon-Ka ree song as they jumped between lotus plants and the trees surrounding Oneal Lake. I also drove through a section of Hardwood forest and stopped to listen to a new song for me.  I videoed in the direction of the song and could see a flash of yellow but could not identify this bird until I got home and pulled a frame from my video and a very blurry image and tried to match the recorded song from my video to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site to identify my first Prothonotary Warbler.    

 

Karen and I continued visiting wildlife refuges on this trip and in November 2012, January 2013 and March of 2013.   We loved every Refuge we visited.  

Karen was convinced we needed to do a week trip to the Michigan UP.  I had driven through North Dakota but didn't realize the small ponds I saw filled with ducks were the prairie potholes and so critical to the breeding and habitat of migratory waterfowl of North America.  I am glad we started our trip in North Dakota.  

We we drove through Pelican NWR they had an instructional board about the North Dakota habitat.  I was so glad was so familar with the area.

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