It all started innocently enough. I knew L. and I would finish our 3rd-grade Science curriculum ahead of schedule, so I started looking for some other options to dabble in for the remainder of the school year. I was looking for things that were a little different, maybe a little more fun, and more focused than a typical overview-oriented elementary science option.
Somewhere along the line, I stumbled upon Feederwatch.org — a project that involves people all over the country counting backyard feeder birds during the winter and reporting their findings. Well. That sounds like fun, right?
(For the record, L. didn’t really think it sounded like fun, so I also ordered some Lego Education items, which appealed to him FAR more than the concept of counting birds.)
But back to Feederwatch.
It sounded educational, too. Making observations, gathering data, reporting findings. That’s all very scientific if you ask me. And we’d get the bonus of learning more about birds. I mean, I could identify robins, cardinals, and blue jays (and our friendly neighborhood mockingbird), but that was about it. Here was a chance for both of us to learn and grow. (Cue the sentimental, heart-warming music.)
Before long, I had ordered too many bird feeders, many pounds of birdseed, and some special equipment to rig everything up on our back deck. After all, I know me. And if I had to tromp through a few feet of snow to fill the feeders at any point this winter, well…the birds might not get their breakfast. Feeders hanging from the deck = better chance of me keeping them stocked.
Of course, because I have approximately zero ability when it comes to any kind of household project, the special equipment didn’t actually fit our deck. But Chad came to the rescue with an extra deck plank, some patio furniture, and a couple c-clamps, and we made do. Feeders were in place and overflowing with seed, so I sat back to wait for the birds to arrive.
Well it turns out that the birds were not just hanging out in nearby trees waiting for a new Bird Diner to show up.
Week 1: Zero birds.
Katrina: exceedingly stressed about the fact that there were NO BIRDS and WHY NOT?? and WHAT WERE WE GOING TO DO?
L.: not the least bit concerned; wondering when we would break open the Legos
Chad & Cam: wondering what was wrong with Katrina and if she had finally lost it
Week 2: One bird. Hey, A BIRD! It was all very exciting.
Week 3: As a special Christmas gift to me, the birds started arriving. Apparently, they decided that I had suffered long enough, so they showed up to eat the seed and pose for my camera. And I turned into a bird geek. I learned about gold finches, house finches, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and more!
And then, well, I think I turned into the Crazy Bird Lady. My photography obsession and my bird obsession started to merge. I began keeping a camera with a telephoto lens nearby at all times. If L. and I were doing math and a bird landed in a good location for a
photo-op picture, I interrupted multiplication practice to get the shot. I found myself staring out the window instead of correcting sentence diagrams. I would stand with my camera pointed at the bird feeder for a very, very long time, waiting for the perfect moment to click the shutter.
If you’ve known me for a while, I guess this really shouldn’t surprise you. After all, I was already the Crazy Cat Lady of photography — taking WAY too many pictures of Chester and Charlie. So why wouldn’t I go a little insane with the bird pictures? I admit: I have issues.
Well, we’re now about eight weeks into our Feederwatch adventure, and I would say that overall, it’s been a positive experience. L., despite not being excited at the beginning, can identify quite a few birds at this point, and even enjoys it if we get a particularly large turnout. I’ve settled into a (hopefully) balanced photo approach. I still enjoy taking pictures of our feathered visitors, but am not letting it take over my other responsibilities.
And the cats? Well, I think they’re the happiest of all. They spend hours every day watching the birds and making threatening chattering noises from behind glass. The birds don’t seem to mind.
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