Birding is a wonderful hobby that can be enjoyed year-round. In your own backyard, a beginning birder can easily find much to enjoy. Birds offer the beginning enthusiast with so many opportunities no matter your location. As your birding skills advance, you may begin actively seeking hikes and other adventures in places near and far to further your knowledge and sightings.
I still consider myself a beginning amateur birder; mine is a casual, ongoing interest. At home, my husband, Harry, and I enjoy a number of birds that visit us seasonally, and a few that we see all year. Spring through early fall is the most active times for our little yard with the arrival of many of our favorites including: the Black and White Warbler, Wood Thrush, Veery, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, and American Robin. As the cold weather approaches, we soon see Slate Colored Juncos, commonly referred to as Snow Birds. Throughout the year, we delight in catching glimpses of Raven, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, Blue Heron, and Pileated Woodpecker.
Harry and I once witnessed a Sharp-shinned Hawk, the smallest of our accipiters, and considered rare in Connecticut, swoop down with startling speed, agility and forcefulness and rapidly kill a Mourning Dove. We were at once amazed by the stealth of this incredible predator and excitement at spotting this rare bird, while also feeling sadness and horror at the sudden death of the Mourning Dove who visited our yard each day with its mate.
Even “common” birds like pigeons and crows are, in fact, quite extraordinary! I hope you will take a moment today to enjoy the amazing beauty and unique talents of our feathered friends. An excellent way to start birding or advance your study is to browse our collection.
Here are a few of my favorites to get started:
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America: While there are other guides, I find this to be the most helpful and the one I always turn to for identification. With maps, illustrations and identification points, the Peterson Field Guide helps all of us accurately identify birds.
Birding by Ear and More Birding By Ear, both in the Peterson Field Guide Series, are absolute essentials for expanding your birding knowledge. These two audio CD collections are perfect companions to the guide book. Once I started to learn bird songs and calls, I realized how many more birds I hear that I do not see! A fantastic guide!
Connecticut Birding Guide by Buzz Devine and Dwight Smith give the Connecticut birder everything they need to have an adventure. In every part of the state, they list where to go and what you can hope to see accompanied by a map, directions and trail information. There is also an excellent overview of birding including seasonal opportunities, general precautions, birding ethics and various birding habitats.
The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Connecticut edited by Louis R. Bevier is a superb book. Every bird that may be found in Connecticut is listed along with information on its status; where in the state it has been confirmed, probable or possible; and a brief overview of its habitat and discussion about the bird.
Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys by Candace Savage will open your eyes to the intelligence of crows. Far from the dark creatures of the woods, they are instead birds that like to stay close to their family (rare in the bird world) and show an incredible intelligence and ingenuity. After reading it, I had even greater admiration for the wise guys of the woods.
Pigeons: the Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman will make you see pigeons in a whole new way. How many of us realize the important role pigeons have played in warfare? Before phones, pigeons provided the fastest and safest way to get a message to someone on the battlefield. This is an utterly fascinating and quirky book. You won’t regret giving it a chance.
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul takes you on the migratory journey of birds. Weidensaul tells not only the science of migration but also the story of it. He awakens the reader to the urgency to conserve and protect the migratory lands of birds, and accomplishes all of this with great literary style.
A Guide to Bird Behavior by Donald and Lillian Stokes is composed of three volumes. Each volume considers 25 birds and it is a wonderful way to enhance your birding. It helps you take identification to the next step by giving you information about the bird’s behavior including courtship and mating, territory, visual and auditory display guides, nesting, and gender differences.
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library