Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I am a birdwatcher. I have two pairs of binoculars on the shelf next to my writing desk - at the ready whenever I need to check out a flutter of wings in a tree outside my window. I've also been know to drop everything in the middle of a conversation, dash to the bookshelf for a bird book, and flip through pages trying to correctly identify which bird just flew past. Yeah, I know. A Certifiable Nutcase. A Bird Nerd.

I've identified most of the common birds and seasonal visitors we have around our place, and my newest favorite hobby is to identify them by sound. Some are a bit secretive and hard to spot, but have an easily recognizable song or call (like the Swainson's thrush which I wrote about here.)

So for the last few weeks, I'd been mystified by a weird nasal noise that I could not identify. It sounded like it came from high in the treetops, and I heard it early in the morning, and again at dusk. I expected some kind of fledgling crying for its mother, but I couldn't find it. I grabbed my binoculars and noticed birds flapping and darting over the big valley across from us (which used to be timber until they logged last year.) They were dark birds, smaller than a hawk, bigger than a swallow, bigger than bats, but what?

I spread five different bird books out and madly roamed the pages, flipping between swifts and flycatchers, and nightjars and nighthawks. Taking the binocs back down to the road, I caught a flash of white on the undersides of the wings. Yes! I pumped my fist. I've got it now! Common Nighthawks!

These birds nest on the ground, and when not in flight, pretty much camouflage themselves and are nothing to look at. Oh, but to see them dart and swoop, they are quite eloquent in flight, and they eat up to 300 mosquitoes a day. They are here in our north country for just the summer, and will leave soon for the southern hemispheres. Here's a site that tell more about them:

I am so thrilled to identify another bird. I will watch for them next Spring, when they return to raise their babies.

As writers, we need to keen in on the small details in life, whether it be nature, or people's gestures or facial expressions, or even the detail of buildings or a city street. Writers pay attention to details. But everyone should, don't you think? It makes life so much more interesting.

Have you noticed anything lately that you never knew before? Some sudden discovery that made you excited about life? Please share.


Amy Lukavics said...

BIRD NERD!! Aaah I love it.

You're so right about writers noticing things like facial expressions and stuff. It's crazy how the details stick with us.

As for the question, I'd have to say that watching Lily as she grows and develops has completely amazed me made me excited about life. She turned eight months old yesterday!

Laura Marcella said...

Love this post! My parents are birdwatchers, too, and so are my grandparents. They know birds by their songs! And now my 5-year-old nephew, since my mom watches him four days a week, knows the birds, too. It's pretty awesome! I only know them by looks. Birds are beautiful to observe.

Linda Benson said...

Amy - Lily is 8 months old! Gosh, I can hardly believe it. Watching a child grow up is the very best detail in life to observe!

Laura - I love birds, too. Watching them come and go through the seasons really keeps me tuned in to the natural world, and gives things perspective.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What a great post, Linda! I love birds, too. My big accomplishment this summer was finally attracting humming birds by planting enough of their fave flowers and putting out feeders. Love those little buzzy birds. What have I noticed lately? Well, those adorable little dudes are fierce and territorial. I've never seen birds fight and go after each other the way those humming birds do.