Birding: The uncommon but fantastic

I follow a blog written by a bird/nature enthusiast who lives in my city of Ottawa, Canada. It’s called The Pathless Wood and it is interesting.

I walk in the same wooded areas that she writes about, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t notice even a quarter of the highlights she brings to the attention of her readers.

She wrote about an olive-sided flycatcher, for instance, a bird she described as “uncommon but fantastic.”

I didn’t even know such a bird existed, and I thought, “What if I was in the right place at the right time, and an olive-sided flycatcher alighted on a branch next to me? I wouldn’t appreciate it at all. I wouldn’t know that it was uncommon but fantastic!”

I experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being blind to something important, like when a person meets a celebrity but doesn’t recognize them, and afterwards someone says, “You know who that was, right?”

On my nature walks I could be rubbing shoulders with the bird equivalent of Tom Hanks or Helen Mirren and not even know it.

I’m not sure there’s a resolution to my problem. I have enough going on in my life (too much), so I can’t add birding to the list. I will keep reading and learning though, in the hope that in future more uncommon but fantastic things will get the appreciation they deserve.

Two birds on a post. "We may be common, but we're still fantastic." "Oh, yeah. She took our picture, didn't she?"

12 thoughts on “Birding: The uncommon but fantastic

  1. wiredogstories

    Three of my sons are avid birders and it is more fun to walk thru the woods with them around. Last week we however, we started at 4am (still dark) to climb Mt. Stevens and Tipi. When we stepped out of the van into the pitch black woods of British Columbia, we heard this deep, scary whoooooff sound about 6 different times as we started up the moonless trail. My son-in-law, Davis, (a much better birder than I ) didn’t know WHAT it was! – “Never heard an owl make that weird sound before!”- I thot for sure it was the sasquatch! So he text messaged his brother Matt who quickly replied that it is the sound that a night hawk makes by diving thru the air and then making a sharp arc back upward and the air passing thru the tail feathers cause them to vibrate with a deep woodzy whoooooff sound like the buzzing paper on a big bass kazoo or the fabric of a kite when it dives and then quickly soars back up into the sky. Yes, life is so much more comforting when you know what’s around you.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Wow. What a great story. So glad it wasn’t a Sasquatch!
      I have started taking closer notice of the birds around me now. I don’t think I’ll ever become a full on birder, but I will endeavour to give them a little more respect.

  2. roughwighting

    The only “birding” I do is watch the many varieties of birds on our birdfeeder. They are constant entertainment (and colorful, from yellow to blues to the woodpecker red white and black). The more I watch, the more I understand the ‘pecking’ order that goes on (who’s allowed on the feeder, when, and for how long). And I’m beginning to understand their calls (“hi honey!” “will you be my honey?” “crap the hawk is nearby!!”). 🙂

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Ha! Interesting. We have a lot of cardinals in our area, and I love to listen to them sing and try to figure out what the different notes of their songs are all about. I just spent the past week at our cottage where there are blue jays galore. They sure know how to place themselves high in the pecking order around any food source!

  3. Lisa Coleman

    You can check out my bird of the day and get acquainted with many birds that migrate to Canada. It is a great hobby but I didn’t pick it up until after my kids were grown.

  4. Chad MacLeod

    What amazed me most when I started birding was just how oblivious I had been to the common (but fantastic) birds that perched all around me. Working off from your analogy, I guess that’d mean rubbing shoulders with my grandma and not even knowing it! Your post precisely captures why so many get into birding in the first place – and why so many others should. I live in Maine, where Double-crested Cormorants frequent a marsh nearby to where I’ve lived for the past 27 years. Until last year, I hadn’t noticed them nor knew them by name. But now they’re my favorite bird to watch.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Sorry to take a few days to reply – you caught me in the middle of our Canadian Thanksgiving. I was off giving thanks for restful days away from social media. While we were travelling out west last week we saw a Steller’s Jay for the first time. A beautiful bird with a horrible croaking caw – fascinating to watch.


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