Trending now in birding

Published 9:55 pm Thursday, February 13, 2020

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By Susan and Biff Andrews 

Ever notice how ordinary things those of us of a certain age have been doing for a long time have come full circle and are “trending now”? Otherwise normal activities have now become “a thing.” For example, taking a walk in the woods has become “forest bathing.” Maybe it is an affirmation of the wisdom one gains from the experience of just being on this planet for a while. As a casual observer of nature, human and otherwise, it makes me smile quietly inside.

Somebody asked me the other day if I am a birder. That term caused some serious introspection. I like birds, but in a casual way. I can even identify some if they sit still long enough, especially the wading birds; they’re really slow. Having been in the company of some really good birders and seen some ornithologists in action … in that pecking order, the answer is a resounding no!

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In my mind, birders seek out specific birds on lists. They study the patterns and nuances of markings on birds. They can identify birds by silhouette and flight patterns. They listen to recordings of songs and calls like someone learning a foreign language. And birders get up early in the morning and go out in the cold.

I really do like birds and get a lot of joy when I see one that’s unfamiliar. I’ll even take out a field guide and look it up. But it’s not likely I’ll get out from under the covers to go outside in the cold, wee hours looking for ‘em. So, I’m happy just being an ordinary bird watcher. I watch for the birds when I’m looking at other stuff in the woods. I watch what the birds are doing when I go for a walk in my neighborhood. I want to see if my neighbors have different birds than the ones I see in my yard.

My favorite place to watch the birds is out of my kitchen windows (in cold months). It’s a joy watching them enjoy all the goodies in the feeders. Biff braves the cold to keep them supplied with seeds, nuts, worms and suet. In the warmer months we go out on the deck or various other bird watching stations in our yard. Our backyard habitat is excellent for any number of woodpeckers and other little birds too numerous to list here. We have regular customers, such that we started naming some a few years back. There’s a yellow bellied sapsucker we named “Scruffy” and a large red-bellied woodpecker we call “Big Daddy.” These days, we speculate if we are seeing so-and-so’s children and grandchildren. We do that with the squirrels, raccoons, and foxes, too.

I read a lovely article by Alissa Bunner in the Virginian-Pilot on Feb. 8: “Create an outdoor sit spot to enjoy nature.” In it she cites the book “What the Robin Knows” by Jon Young. He uses the term “sit spot” to describe a place you regularly frequent to observe not just birds but all the interactions of all manner of creatures in that space. He even suggests naming your regulars. I ordered it up immediately. “Hot Spot” or “Patch Birding” are other terms I came across in the Feb/Mar 2020 “Birds and Blooms” in an article called “The Perfect Patch.” No expensive equipment, just a pair of eyeballs and a quiet place outside where you can get to know your birdies. Lo and behold, it turns out that we’ve been doing that all these years without even knowing it was a thing.

So that’s what’s trending now. It’s a relief to know that we dont always have to work so hard to enjoy nature. We just have to be open to sitting back and taking it in.


Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at