As a lover of nature, I’ve always appreciated birds. I’ve experienced the sentimental aspect of their familiar calls, have been shocked and awed by a wild Roseate Spoonbill flyover siting, and spent the better part of a Costa Rican hike desperately trying to glimpse a Quetzal. But it wasn’t until I attended a birding workshop at the Woodlands Conservancy Preserve that I can confidently claim that I am a birder now.
The January workshop was organized to teach experienced birders to track their sitings on digital apps collecting data about bird populations and migration. I showed up without any knowledge, experience, or binoculars. Amy, the Woodlands Conservancy employee that led the workshop, was very gracious with me as a newbie. We were a krewe of 6 women under 45 and one extremely knowledgeable octogenarian birder named Glen Ousset. Glen was a true gem of a guide to have in the mix, identifying birds by call alone and explaining best practices as we moved along the preserve trail. His lifelong passion for birds was truly an inspiration.
Our mission was to slowly and quietly walk the Woodlands Preserve Trail watching and listening for birds. If someone heard a call or caught a glimpse of a bird, we’d stop and discuss what species it was, and how many of them were around. We even gawked at the birds of prey circling way above our heads (and discovered a bald eagle was soaring among a committee of turkey vultures). Of course, I was mostly along for the ride, and everyone was nice enough to lend me a peek through their binoculars when there was something to see.
I personally thought our list was quite impressive for an hours' walk through the woods. Being a novice, I had no idea that I was in the presence of so many different species. Probably the most rare siting of the day was a trio of Inca Doves almost perfectly camouflaged on a tree branch. Here is a photo captured by Carissa, shared by Theresa Romano.
Some other fun bird facts I gleaned:
- There’s a bird called Butterbutt; a common name for the Yellow Rumped Warbler.
- You can tell the difference between Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures in flight by the color of their wings. The Turkey Vulture has more white/gray along the trailing wing edge.
- The Ruby Crowned Kinglet is tiny with an angry call, and has a red punk “hairdo” to boot.
- The Red shouldered hawk’s call sounds very similar to seagulls.
Since this workshop, I have continued to increase my awareness of the birds in my surroundings. I've been keenly watching the ones in my backyard, and have identified and noted sitings during travels. I highly recommend attending one of the Woodlands Conservancy events– either tree planting, a bird banding field day, or another bird watching workshop like this one.You will walk away with valuable new knowledge of the natural world just outside of New Orleans and at the very least get to pass a good time in a beautiful place (which is also open to the public everyday).
Our Tchoup Industries Sagittaria Bandana now donates back to the Woodlands Conservancy. Your purchase will help them continue to conserve undeveloped land, providing habitat to countless native species of flora and fauna, and an opportunity for humans to commune peacefully with nature.