Taking Time To Shoot The Birds

“Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.” ~ Roger Tory Peterson

When spring arrives, anywhere along the coast is where we’ll be, and you can bet we’ll be looking up. The spring birder crick-neck disease is a very real thing, I assure you. Add a 5-lb lens to your face, you might be in need of a chiropractor.

It feels like yesterday we enjoyed bird ‘fallout’ from a storm — bad for them, good for us. From the comfort of our own backyard, we counted warblers and orioles and tanagers in our trees, species we had never seen before on our property. It was as if we’d arrived at a birding hotspot … only we were at home.

That was nearly two months ago. (Incidentally, I only just now updated the annual list today, a little behind schedule.)

Precious days off during this very busy time in our lives are spent day-tripping, counting and shooting birds (with a camera) as a team (with my husband or fellow bird-buds). It’s pressing; there are only a handful of weeks in which to see all the colors of the rainbow each migration. Many species are merely passing through our area, not to be seen again until next spring. For many of them, populations are collapsing. We treat each sighting like it may be the last.

Birding is hardly relaxing. First, it’s a long drive to our favorite haunts along the coastal prairies. We walk miles, wind and sun (sometimes sand) in our faces, brains churning information, eyes trained on the distance to detect any movement in the periphery. Field lenses UP, the game begins every 5 minutes or so .. all day. Then, a long drive home.

It’s exhausting. It’s challenging, even sometimes disappointing. Most times, it’s positively exhilarating.

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane
Life Bird!

For every life bird we see, there are many we miss. It’s been years since we’ve seen a Red Knot. Many warbler and shorebird species are most imperiled due to their long, difficult migration travels every year. They are hard-wired over hundreds of thousands of generations to make these journeys, and we are changing things faster than they are able to adapt. As their numbers diminish, it is harder for us to find them where they are.

In Houston, it’s the White-tailed Hawk losing the battle. He is becoming locally extinct due to Houston’s suburban sprawl, resulting in housing and business development and necessary loss of habitat in what has traditionally been his species’ hunting and nesting range. They used to be everywhere here, now they are practically nowhere. We breathe a little sigh of relief whenever we spot one (and we did again this year).

As native prairies are losing out to people and their domesticated animals, so go the species that used to inhabit these wild spaces. Doom and gloom aside, birding and photography still remains one of my favorite extracurricular things to do.

Common Nighthawk

Tripped over him on the ground sleeping
Common Nighthawk

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Morning Coffee Buddy

Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallows
Nesting a little low

Summer Tanager

Show stopper
Summer Tanager

Swainson's Hawk

Close encounter! (no zoom)
Swainson’s Hawk


Daytime Snoozing

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler
Only Passing Through

Queen Of The Prairie

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9 thoughts on “Taking Time To Shoot The Birds

  1. I hope to be one of those birding-buds one of these days, Shannon. 🙂

    It is so disheartening to observe loss of habitat and decline in bird numbers and species. We know what we need to do to reverse some of these devastating trends, yet we live on as if there were no tomorrow. I think that is our biggest problem. We are short-sighted creatures, and don’t really care what happens after us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have every confidence that the earth will do well without us, even with the damage we’ve done, but we are sure to take down many with us as we drown.

      Have you read ‘The End of Nature?’ Written 30 years ago, it is still spot on today. I highly recommend it for weekend reading, Tanja. The problem as I see it is that we teach our young (in schools, at home) a life that is perfectly contradictory to ‘harmony in nature.’ It’s difficult to light a fire for conservation and long-term change when we are daily and habitually short-sighted with consumption and politics and resource allocation.

      We can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid.

      PS – The thing about spring and birding is that there is always next year! Even winter is a fantastic time to bird along the coast. You will always have free room and board here, Tanja. Just give the word. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind offer of room and board, Shannon. Texas is high on my birding wish list, as you well know.

        I agree with your assessment, and also think that kids (and adults, for that matter) who never spend any time in nature, might get the impression that it’s not necessary for their lives. And, of course, they never develop any appreciation for it.
        Thank you for the book suggestion. I do not know it, but will try to find a copy, even though it will probably make me sad(der).


      2. It is sad, but only in that he pegged today’s scenario with chilling accuracy several decades ago. We are like a slow moving train wreck it would seem. Read it!

        Liked by 1 person

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