I was late coming to bird watching. I knew there were birds around. You can’t help but notice them when they wake you up at 5:15 on a beautiful Sunday morning in mid-summer with their cheerful songs. And you can’t help but notice when they leave their marks on your newly washed car. But when I came to live in the country, I paid close attention to birds and noticed their comings and goings with the seasons: the first red wing blackbirds that mark the beginning of warmer weather, the first turkey vultures (what I refer to as “death eaters” with my wife), the first barn swallows running reconnaissance before the whole family shows up in late May. I have been fortunate in my life to see the previously endangered American Bald Eagle come back from the brink of extinction to be a frequent presence on my farm in Pierpont and now here in Geauga County.
Our new farm, full of fruit-bearing trees, shrubs and other various flora is brimming with a magnificent diversity of avian life, some of it rare. We have seen of all the standards: blue birds, mourning doves, cardinals, robins, chickadees, finches of all varieties, sparrows, swallows, red tail hawks and tons of woodpeckers with at least a couple mating pairs of the pileated variety. It appears we have an entire colony of cedar wax wings taking up residence in the woods between our north and south fields.
On the rare side, at least to us, we have a mating pair of least bitterns that regularly haunt the large pond. We were lucky enough to discover their nest and find a startled and shocking baby least bittern with its beak held high to the sun in its standard startled pose.
Last night before bed, we took a canoe ride. “Parked” the canoe in the middle, sat very still and waited to see fish come up to the boat. As we sat there, the least bittern kept flying around and expressing his displeasure about our presence. While sitting and looking at him, his four times larger cousin the blue heron flew in and lazily dropped to the shallow waters to begin an early evening feasting session. It was pretty awesome.
These are professional examples of what our feathered friends look like if captured properly on film.
When we need help identifying these residents, we look to our collection of books and regularly read the Geauga Park District “Ask a Naturalist” column on their website. Additionally, Birds of North America is a fantastic resource for bird lovers.