Growing up near the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Central Florida, I developed a fondness for wildlife. From loggerhead turtles to alligators to cormorants, nature surrounded me. Birds became a particular favorite of mine. Egrets, spoonbills, herons, bald eagles, whip-poor-wills, woodpeckers, and mockingbirds were a daily sight, but my favorite had to be the cormorants. When I was young, an older resident explained that the cormorants dive into the water for fish, then can’t fly with wet feathers, so they have to sit with their wings spread and let them dry in the sun. Driving along streams and marshy areas, they sit on low branches, just above the water, their black wings spread in an ominous way, just as still as they can be – they are truly fascinating (and slightly spooky) birds.
Today is the 226th birthday of John James Audubon, a man known for his love of birds. Birds of America, published in the early 1800s, contains over 700 North American bird species. Visitors to the John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky can enjoy the artifacts housed here, the world’s largest collection.
If you’ve never gone birding, grab your camera, binoculars, and a picnic lunch and find your local birding spot. It is a fun and interesting way to spend a weekend afternoon. (I purchased a local bird guide for my sons so they could look up any birds we see camping.) You’ll have some great pictures and even better stories to tell after a day bird-watching.
Want to take it one step further? Bird festivals are held at various times of the year across the country. Try out a bird camp or take the kids to an educational program. With so many resources, bird-watching is a rewarding pastime that is easy to take up.