Our speaker was Easton Rotarian Terry Pundiak who introduced us to the world of bird watching. This is Terry’s newest hobby, and he is not alone. The pandemic conditions have inspired many people to take up walking which can give people time to notice the birds. Our Valley is a home to over 300 species of birds, so opportunities abound. Terry has already recorded seeing at least 80 species.
Birding can range from a very casual experience to an absolute science. Terry recommends some inexpensive research for newcomers. Perhaps an online course like the one offered by Cornell University. The New York Times best selling book “The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman is a great resource. The free Merlin ID app for your phone can help you identify different species. The app even includes audible bird songs. The eBird app tracks birds by location, date, time, and other factors. This can help people locate a specific species. Serious birders will want to invest in some more expensive technology. Terry has found that it is NOT silly to spend over $100 on binoculars and he recommends 8 power by 42 mm for optimal birding. A telephoto camera with electronic image stabilization can allow you to take great pictures from hundreds of feet away.
Birds are excellent communicators. Their songs can have highly specific meanings, often warning of danger. Crows are considered to be highly intelligent and have at least 255 different “words”. The plumage of birds can be stunning, but the highly colorful plumage is generally reserved for the males. The northern wheatear lives in Canada but spends most of the winter in Africa. The western Canada birds fly over the Pacific Ocean and Asia to get to Africa. The eastern Canada birds fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Vultures do the community a service by eating decaying animals that might otherwise spread harmful diseases. The vulture’s stomach acid is so strong that they are not affected by the germs. The horns on the great horned owl are actually tufts of feathers. Their asymmetrical ear holes near their eyes enable a tremendous sense of hearing.