Do you know this bird? If not, you could get to know this punk rocker of the bird world and add it to your life list. Its red-crested head is reminiscent of a mohawk hairdo, and it has an attention-grabbing, hard-driving, cackling call that can be heard from a fair distance. And it beats a loud drum when pounding its beak into a tree looking for ants to eat. I see and/or hear this bird from time to time on the MKT trail and am always delighted. If you want to meet this bird in person, all you need is the willingness to take walks in nearby woods with your eyes and ears wide open. A pair of binoculars can also be helpful when you just can’t get close enough to see with your naked eyes.
April and May are months of major migration (when there is massive movement of birds flying north toward their breeding grounds), so it’s an excellent time to take up birding. The sheer numbers and variety of bird species moving through or setting up temporary breeding residence offer plenty of opportunity for sightings. It’s a thrill to see a brand new bird, and the approaches to making this happen can vary. One way is from the comfort of your own home. By setting up a favorable environment and providing feed you can attract all kinds of birds to your yard. An amateur birder since high school, I’ve poured over many bird guides, mentally noting the more remarkable birds. Several springs ago I looked out at our backyard feeder and, lo and behold, there landed a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I knew it immediately because it was on my hope-to-see list. Its colored markings were stunning and its beauty did not disappoint! You can also head out into the field for birding expeditions, locally or in more far-flung places (e.g., traveling to Nebraska to witness the Sandhill Crane migration). In either case, you’ll want to have a bird identification guide. As a beginning birder I found my experience to be enhanced by going out with others to learn the how-tos of birding (the Columbia Audubon Society organizes birding field trips).
People find birding to be a deeply satisfying activity for many reasons, not the least of which is contact with the natural world via observing beautiful creatures that have the magical power of flight. It can be a real lift for the soul.