A dawn chorus at Ramshorn-Livingston Sanctuary

What do potato chips, Doritos and the expression ‘Who cooks for you all?’ have in common?    They are the words (or phrases) that certain birds love to sing.  In corresponding order: finches, wrens and owls, to be exact.

All those little chirps, whistles and trills made by certain bird species sound surprisingly human.   And, that can be a good thing when trying to identify birds hidden by foliage or flying too fast.  You don’t necessarily need a visual sighting to know what kind of species is about.

Audubon educator, Larry Federman, demonstrated his own unique gifts before our bird tour began.   His vocal chords reproduce the pitch, rhythm and tones of dozens of varieties.   The group was mesmerized.

This was my first official bird walk and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  A group of 15 gathered at the Ramshorn-Livingston Sanctuary in Catskill, NY sporting rain jackets, hiking shoes and high quality Bushnell binoculars.  I had a small crummy pair, bright blue in color, that could have been pulled out of a cereal box.

The Sanctuary is part of the Hudson River’s largest forested tidal swamp while the watershed is music to the ears of longtime birdwatchers.

We moved slowly along an old farm road to observe the habitats of Morning Dove (MoDo for short), Kinglet warblers, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, flocks of raspy Eastern Phoebe and the Tufted Titmouse (looks like a chickadee).   The shrieks of a Swamp Sparrow resonated like a heavy-duty Singer sewing machine.

The only bird I was able to see with the naked eye was the Red-winged Blackbird.   He perched atop cattails in an open field not far from the viewing platform.

“You’ll need to come back next Wednesday morning to see the Virginia Rail,” said Federman.  “It gets “bird-ier” as summer nears.”

The elusive Virginia Rail remained hidden in the dense undergrowth but, no matter, Federman with his whopping 400mm lens, was still able to find the secretive feathered friend after I broke off from the pack to head home.

These too are Larry’s finds:

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Sonja Stark

The only thing domestic about me is that I was born in this country. Now, lets TRAVEL!

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