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The Joys of Birdwatching

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Article and Photography by Alice Mary Herden

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I had a plan to cover as many high school sporting events as possible before and during Christmas break. Well thanks to catching bronchitis, those plans got axed. So what do you do when you’re sick and stuck at home? You transform into a backyard-birder!

So what’s the big deal about birdwatching? The variety and wonderment of birds! Well to some, it may seem dull watching birds gather seed from a bird feeder or fly and hop within the trees throughout the day, but to others, it’s pretty darn cool.

What is fascinating about birdwatching is how different they are. From sizes, colors, patterns, beak shapes to songs, and with over 10,000 species of birds worldwide, you are bound to see a diversity of birds from your backyard.

There is this excitement to see how many different species will perch themselves on the feeder to gather nuts and sunflower seeds. After a while, you begin to learn about them. I know that red-bellied woodpeckers like to hide their collection of nuts and insects by drilling small holes in the trunks or branches of trees or pounding them into the crevices of bark. Other birds like blue jays or mourning doves may dine-in as they store as much seed as they can in their throat patch. Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice are the grab-and-go birds. Then there’s the moment of silence and all you hear is a male house finch singing on a small thin branch in the leafless tree above. It’s a beautiful song. Then you begin to notice all the other different songs and bird calls.

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Now it’s winter migration for some species of birds. Yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings, American robins, American goldfinches, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, to name a few, migrate to Florida during the winter months. These winter migrating birds are only here for a few months and then they travel back to their breeding territories. Some fly miles, even thousands of miles over land and water to reach their destination.

Getting into birding can be challenging at first because there are so many different species! Some birds are easy to identify or distinguish between the sexes like northern cardinals whose males and females are markedly different in appearance. In other species you can’t really tell between male or female. Some species have non-breeding and breeding plumage. It’s a lot to absorb at first, but if you are interested in learning about birds start at home, join a birding group or attend workshops.

The other part of birdwatching is the enjoyment of just watching them. Birds are amazing, they are so diverse. They are a powerful part of nature of any size. They are the songs of the forest and play an important role in our ecosystem, even right in your backyard.

What birds visited my backyard:

Pine warblers, yellow-rumped warbler, palm warblers, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, yellow-throated warblers, red-wing blackbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, common grackles, northern cardinals, blue jays, house finch, mourning doves, ground doves, white ibis, crows, red-shouldered hawk, blue-gray gnatcatchers, and a summer tanager.

Alice Mary Herden
Alice Mary Herden is an award-winning professional photographer and writer focusing on nature and wildlife. From 2008 to 2021, Alice has owned Green-Fly Media LLC, a freelance photography business. She freelanced for Hernando Sun for five years covering sports, community, and environmental reporting. Alice was nominated for Agricultural & Environmental Reporting for articles published in Hernando Sun in the Florida Press Association Weekly Newspaper Contest. She placed second for Agricultural & Environmental Reporting and was awarded first place in Portfolio Photography in 2018 and took home first place in 2019. She was awarded the Robert J. Ellison Memorial Award for Portfolio Photography in 2018. She published three online magazines, Voices to Visions, a Dust and Shadows Magazine, which featured haunted locations and interviews with paranormal celebrities. Football Magazine was the first minor league football magazine in the state of Florida based on the United Football Federation football league that featured game coverage, interviews including former NFL players and College Coaches. She also created RAW- Real Amazing Wildlife featured nature and wildlife photography. Since 2015, Alice has been a volunteer at Chinsegut Conservation Center located in Brooksville, Florida. She helps with programs as well as organizing nature photography workshops. Alice is also a co-organizer for the yearly event ‘Chinsegut Wildlife Day’ and the ‘Wild Florida’ Photography Exhibit. Alice obtained two career diplomas, Wildlife/Forestry Conservation and Freelance Writing, from Penn Foster in 2019. She completed the Florida Master Naturalist Program core module courses: Upland, Freshwater, and Coastal Systems through the adult education UF/IFAS Extension program to obtain her Master Naturalist certification in September of 2020. She completed the Land Steward and Restoration Courses to obtain her title as an Advanced Master Naturalist. In September of 2020, Alice enrolled in a course at Cornell Lab Bird Academy to obtain her certification in Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology, which she completed in October 2020. In January of 2021, Alice was hired for a part-time position with FWC as an Educational Specialist and in June of 2021 hired as Sponsored Project OPS for UF/IFAS in Hernando County. She is back writing for Hernando Sun and continues to publish photography and nature writing on her blog- FloridaNature.Net. Alice is married to Donald Herden Jr and resides in Weeki Wachee, Florida, with their two dogs, Bree and Willow.
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