Monday, September 23, 2013

Birdwatching~Confessions of a Wimpy Naturalist

I thought myself ready for a new naturalist interest and birdwatching seemed the perfect choice:

1. It is fall and there are only about two wildflowers blooming now.

2. It is fall, and therefore the migratory season. Jordan is on the migratory route for birds flying between Europe and Africa and so it is prime bird watching season.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful birds that live in or fly through Jordan.

3. Trees. Birds like trees and we have a quite a few tall pines and various fruit trees in our yard. It's by no means a forest, but I do hear lots of birdsong in our garden so I know they are there and flying through. Also, the hospital compound where we walk in the early morning has hundreds of trees and lots of birds. Last month my friend observed a flock of storks flying overhead--a sight I once experienced some years ago while driving in Amman. I still remember the awesome moment of sighting them as I rounded 7th Circle.

I felt like a wimpy naturalist upon discovering that bird watching is a lot more difficult that wildflower spotting. I knew it would be more challenging, given that birds move and move quickly, whereas flowers hold a pose for an eternity in bird time. I just didn't realize how challenging it would be. And pictures? Ha!

Perhaps part of my problem is that years of wildflower spotting have inclined my gaze downward. I've missed some bird sightings, but I've found some of their feathers. The striped feather on the bottom right comes from the Hoopoe, or Hudhud in Arabic. A friend suspects there is a nest of them somewhere on the hospital grounds as a few have been spotted. I've only seen one and it was running quickly across the road. Hoopoes like to stay close to the ground.

And since I decided to become a bird watcher, I joined the Jordan Birdwatching Club on Facebook. I was immediately intimidated by how seriously these bird aficionados took their bird spottings and identification. I would say many of the members of this club are birders, which I'm learning is a more intense level of birdwatching, judging my the identification minutiae discussed on this page. I am seriously out of my league but I'll hang in there and hopefully I'll learn a few things.

One thing I have learned is that there is a bird observatory in Aqaba, the Red Sea port city in the south of Jordan, and the birdwatchers there observe some spectacularly beautiful birds. I've also learned they have pretty nice cameras.

I had just about given up seeing a bird stand still for more than half a second so that I could observe it and appreciate its beauty, let alone photograph it, when this week I heard loud bird chatter in the lemon tree in front of my bedroom window.  I grabbed my camera and once I saw the two birds flitting in and out the lemon tree, and over to the pomegranate tree and back again, I started snapping photos--through the screen and all.

Great Tit
Parus major 

Not such a great picture, but it shows the Tit's distinctive yellow breast.  Listed next to the Great Tit in my guide is the Blue Tit. For "activity" it says that the Blue Tit is very active, moves in small hops on the ground, and hangs upside down in search of insects. That was true as well of the Great Tit I observed.

In humility, I list the few birds I've actually observed and identified in September:

1. Hoopoe
2. White Spectacled Bulbul (Lots of these fly through our garden)
3. Great Tit
4. Eurasian Jay (These fly around the hospital compound in small gangs and they steal the eggs of other birds out of their nests. Bad birds!)
For now I'm not counting all the pigeons and doves. We have lots of those. We're off to camp in Wadi Dana for a night next week, so maybe I'll get lucky there.

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