My husband and I went to the Derby Hill Bird Observatory yesterday. We took our bouncy dog, Brianna who, being partly bird dog and mostly people dog, thought it was the most fun ever. We were taking an amateur stab at catching the spring migration, based on the Derby Hill website saying the migrations happen anywhere from March to May… this being April, we figured we might have a chance.
It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, the kind of day I’d been longing for since… well, since November, I imagine. We were suprised to find a parking lot full of lawn chairs and powerful spotting scopes and people who have obviously spent more time bird watching than we have. I felt a little under-equipped with my digital camera and our basic binoculars, and I admit we both expressed spotting scope envy.
We retreated to the bench overlooking Lake Ontario and had a picnic lunch. Brianna took care of the bits that fell on the ground, and we happily identified a flock of Red-Breasted Mergansers out on the lake. We took turns watching them dive, play and fish in the clear, cold waters of the newly melted lake.
After lunch we decided to brave the somewhat intimidating crowd over in the parking lot. They were surprisingly friendly and helpful, pointing out the Golden Eagle flying overhead, showing us where we could borrow another set of binoculars and lawn chairs. Occasional shouts of “Kestral! 6 o’clock!!” “Sand Hill Cranes over the lake!!” and people pointing out where to direct our binoculars. Sometimes I wondered if people really did see the bird they were joyfully identifying, but most often I was at least able to catch a glimpse of the illusive raptor (including getting a good look at the Golden Eagle as it flew directly overhead) or sea bird.
During the couple of hours we were there, raptors and sea birds alike made a fly by, including pelicans, cranes, eagles, hawks, osprey, kestrals, and more. These impressive special interest birds overshadowed a bit the smaller, more abundant local feathered neighbors, and after a bit I wandered over to the bird feeders and watched the entertaining battle over who got to be at what bird feeder. Red wing blackbirds, cowbirds, bold little chickadees, shier nuthatches and tufted titmice, a hairy woodpecker and a lone chipmunk mostly took their turns diving for seeds at the feeders. Kingfishers and barn swallows swooped around overhead.
All in all it was a wonderful afternoon and served as a reminder that we share the planet with an incredible variety of life. Now that spring is in the air, put away your excuses and get outside and connect with the earth. You will walk away a little richer for it.