Birding Birding Birding Birding Birding Birding
It all happened so quickly it took my breath! My resident flock of fat, well-fed mourning doves was minding its own business when suddenly out of nowhere, it seemed, struck a small hawk. Feathers flew.

I never counted birds until that day - when I saw the very small hawk take a nice plump dove and strain to fly away with it. The hawk was so small and its load so proportionately large and heavy, it could hardly clear the tops of the white pines and utility lines that ran through them.

I didn't recognize the small hawk;
certainly not the Kestrel I was accustomed
to back home on the farm. Eager to identify
the mystery bird, I grabbed the first
opportunity to go to the public library and borrow books about birds.

Growing up on a farm in west Tennessee, and being a child who loved the out-of-doors, I was well familiar with many birds: their ways, their habits, their sounds - their most everything there was to know about a fairly long list of birds.

A happy to be outdoors, freckling barefoot girl with long auburn hair, I usually knew the time of day without having to look at the sky. Without thinking about it, I inherently knew by the slant of the light - and by the timbre of sounds around me, including the birds, the pitch of their voices and the sounds they made. I never thought about it back then.

Years later, home to visit for a few days during a sad time, it all surged back and hit me as if I’d been physically struck. I’d forgotten what it was like. My spirit cried out to the Spirit, “Oh, God! I’m here.”, and fell right back in step with the spirit of the place as if I’d never been away. It was then I realized: It was as if the environment was absorbed through my skin. It was all part of me - and I, it. I’d forgotten what it was like.

I’d forgotten what it was like when time was registered by the sounds of the farm animals, by the amount of warmth, the fragrance of earth rising in the heat, the little whirlwinds people called dust devils, the amount of stillness - or of breeze, how quickly the day was cooling, ...the movement of the clouds, the sounds from the two houses - my parents' and my grandparents': they all anchored me - in time - and place.

Now that I was much, much older and
placed far away from the farm, the natural world remained a major interest, a need, a part of me. A small city yard was no substitute for a hundred acres of diverse biomes... I missed the animals most of all. My dim link back - to then - and there - was birds.

For awhile, we had a canary and a budgie parakeet in cages, plus, a fish in a bowl. Watching those little lives trapped in containers, I began to feel it was wrong to do that to them and started to daydream about LARGE aquariums and room-sized aviaries where I could enter and have the birds around me.

Then, I made the next step. I don't know if it was cognitive development or maturity; all I know is, I decided: what I should do was make my environment so attractive to the birds they would want to come around me. Year round, food, water, shelter, and nesting areas were provided - it worked - maybe too well. The buildup in numbers of birds was a sure draw. In the natural order of things, hawks began to come - and the owls, even a hen chicken. Where she came from I'll never know.

Human predators were attracted: Young son and his friend couldn't resist taking a few shots at the moving targets with their BB-guns. You can bet I went flying down the steps and stopped that right away. Told them to make some targets to set up and practice on. And, leave my birds alone; they were the nearest things to dinosaurs I'd ever get to have.

Back to the small hawk... Photographs and drawings in books differ. It took a bit of study to finally figure it out - that the "hawk" I saw take a dove was not a hawk at all, it was the falcon, a Merlin! Merlins are Falco columbarius, columba means dove - refering to its popular favorite prey item, and that's exactly what he took.

I began to think further, if that were so, the Merlin was definitely out of his range. Sometimes individual birds do stray. I found that intriguing. If a Merlin was in my yard, what other unusual birds might be there? My interest was piqued. I began to keep a list of the birds I saw.

As I was the only one playing the game, I set the rules: To be counted a bird had to be in our yard, although I stretched it a bit and counted two I saw fly through, and one or two I identified by call, but couldn't see. One of those was a Whip-poor-will after we moved here to Crocker Croft. I heard it more than once down in the dell at dusk.

It was surprising how quickly the list grew
in the beginning as I listed those I see
everyday: the robins, blue jays, starlings,
sparrows, cardinals, etc. I really hadn't
thought about how many there are until I began
to count. After a few years, the list had
twenty-something species of birds
counted - and that was in an area not far
from downtown! I was surprised - and impressed.
Then we moved to Crocker Croft.

I started over with a new list for a new location. Here I saw more warblers. I learned more birds were counted during April and September, the migration months. I learned young warblers in their teenage plumage are a stiff challenge for an amateur birder. I learned I can't tell the difference between Cooper's Hawks and Sharp Shin Hawks. (I've even wondered how they know the difference.) And, sadly, I learned that the migrating birds are the ones that fly into the window glasses. The resident birds are window-wise. I learned the more northern (Kentucky's northern?) Towhees have red eyes while my Towhees on the farm (only one state farther south) had whitish eyes.

Now, I wish I had been more consistent about it and had written the dates for all of the sightings, and maybe the locations and behavior. Mostly what I have to show is an alphabetical list. I do have the chronological list, but this one is easier to read and understand. If you are interested, go to "Bird Sightings".

______________>>>Bird Sightings A - F<<<_______________

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___________Photos Courtsey of Morguefile.com____________