Those black-crowned night herons who hang out in the trees in downtown Oakland are flying from tree to tree, twigs in their beaks, full of purpose and intent on nest-building. Already the green canopy above echoes with the raucous cawing that sounds almost like a bark. Soon there will be nests with eggs, then hatchlings that grow into nestlings, clamoring for food.
I became a birder through a series of events. I got tired of walking the same old paths in the town where I live. So I sought out new paths, exploring some of the 60-plus parks in the East Bay Regional Park system. Many of these parks are on shorelines or have marshes, such as Coyote Hills, Point Pinole and Arrowhead Marsh.
The birds that caught my eye at first were water birds or shore birds. That’s how lots of birders start. These birds are big and slow-moving, easy to spot and identify, unlike the tiny warblers who hang out in the forest and flit from branch to branch before I can get my binoculars focused.
I bought a book, Birds of the Bay Area. Then another field guide. From there it was a slippery slope to a guided bird walk and a beginning birding class.
Then it was the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua and the thrill of seeing an eagle’s nest with an eaglet in it. I went on Audubon Society field trips, like the one to the Pinnacles National Monument where I saw my first California Condor.
Since then I’ve gone on bird walks led by the folks at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and outings with fellow birders, to favorite places like the Point Reyes National Seashore and Audubon Canyon Ranch.
Last fall it was a weekend away with a much more experienced birding friend, to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Now I’m contemplating a birding trip to the Big Bend National Park in Texas. Maybe even Costa Rica.
So that’s how it starts. Now there’s a whole shelf of field guides, plus iBird on my iPhone.
It’s spring. Get out there and look at those birds!