Migration is in full swing. Birds and ducks are returning. Birding is a great way to get outdoors anytime but particularly during COVID-19 social distancing. The birds and ducks will show their bright feathers, sing songs, serenade, and wade, calling us outdoors. This can a family affair, a solo affair, and a social distancing affair. One does not need binoculars to see the birds, especially now with bare trees. It is good to look up, look out and look long. You may hear the birds before you see their silhouette or shape and colors. The Merlin Bird App is very helpful for identification — it’s free and has images, maps, calls and songs of each bird. No internet connection required.
I have spent much of my bird watching solo. I enjoy the solace. I enjoy leading small birding groups and introducing folks to birding. (Fresh eyes see a lot.) As I still consider myself a novice birder, I am always learning.
Mid-March, actually St. Patrick’s Day, four of us braved the cold and went down to Bass Ponds. We drove in three cars and kept our social distancing. I was the only one who moved the spotting scope to find the ducks. Many people stopped to look; some with binoculars in hand. Normally, I would invite strangers who gather at the same birding spot to look through the spotting scope, but I just could not. It was so hard to withhold the view. We all noticed this new reality.
I think the great find of that day was seeing redheads and canvas back ducks wading together and being able to distinguish them easily. We were hoping for a green-wing teal; a mallard was as close as we got. A flock of trumpeter swans flew in a tight formation overhead, with their eight-foot wingspan — we could hear their wing sounds and their trumpeting.
This year birding has changed. I hope the Salt Lake Birding trip at the Big Stone Refuge late April and the Detroit Lake Birding Festival in May won’t have to be cancelled. If they are, we can still show up because the birds will be there regardless.
I leave you with this sentiment: All Shall Be Well. All Shall Be Well. And All Matter of Things Shall Be Well. Julian of Norwich.