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Birds flying over the Nile River, Egypt. December, 2009. Photo by Julie Seyler.


Ever since my husband (MH), and I moved to our home and got a feeder for a housewarming present, I have been watching birds at my feeders and chasing them around fields, forests and seashores for over 10 years now.

The number of feeders has only increased with my desire to see more birds, which in turn, has led me to try and see even more farther afield.

There are many reasons I enjoy doing this. I like a challenge, particularly one that gets me out of the house and into the wood. I’m forced to sharpen my wits, use my eyes and remember many things, including field marks and songs. It gets me enjoyable exercise, walking long distances in new areas to at some very pretty (and sometimes not-so-pretty, birds), and it gets me away from the barking dogs and the noisy neighbors with their tech-savvy kids, who think I’m a strange old lady in this suburban neighborhood for going out in deep snow to shovel a path to the bird feeders.

MH also enjoys watching the feeder birds and going out with me to see what he can see, although he isn’t as gung-ho about rising at early hours and driving long distances. Our different ways of looking at things shape how we go birding.

I have a camera with a longish lens, and if we are in a place far from home that we don’t get to very often, I’ll take pictures to help me remember the scene. If there are birds I can photograph, so much the better. But generally, I rely on my binoculars for identification.

MH has binoculars and a smaller point-and-shoot camera – much more sophisticated than the old Kodaks we had as kids. When we go out I find something, call it out, and he’ll take many pictures from many angles, hoping at least one or two will come out good. (It helps these cameras make it easy to delete the bad shots without wasting film or photo paper.)

Another difference: Say I’m out in the field and I hear something I’ve never heard before. I will stand and wait and wait until I see what called. I’ll note the size, the color, where I am (habitat, state), note any field marks, then come home to start digging through the many field guides I’ve bought to identify it. If that doesn’t work, I go through my CDs of bird calls.

MH has a more scientific bent. He will look, too, and tell me what field marks he sees. He leaves the identifying to me, but once identified, he’ll go to a bookshelf and pull out a historical reference to learn when was the last time that bird was regularly seen in a particular area.

Together we make a good team, and that has become one of the best things about our interest in birding, spending time together and adding memories. We may not have children together but we do have the birds.