You may recall my recent tale of finding my old binoculars. I got ‘em years and years ago to use on a trip out west with a friend of mine who’s a devoted and dedicated birdwatcher. I thought fly fishers were fanatical about their sport, but birding enthusiasts are right in there, too.

Anyway, Santa must have somehow gotten wind of my binoculars situation. For what should be inside that intriguing present from my wife but a brand new set of state-of-the-art binoculars? They were, she said, selected specifically with birdwatching in mind.

“I did research,” she told me later. “These were recommended by lots of folks. Like ‘em?”

Indeed I do!

So now that I have them, what can I do with them? Plan some birdwatching, of course!

Being once again new to this whole birdwatching thing, I really had no idea where to start. I did decide that it would probably be worthwhile to make the trip over to the “bird store,” as we call it — the place where I purchased a bird feeder for Wife of Mine for a birthday present a few years back. That feeder, erected on the deck rail outside the kitchen, still serves as the birdy equivalent of the Golden Corral. 

I remember that it took surprisingly little time for feathered friends far and wide to discover the free food. It wasn’t long before we had a regular cast of feathered characters visiting the feeder on a regular basis, drawn by the prospect of a free meal. They’d fly in and land on the porch rail or even on the cable leading to my ham radio antenna (it passes conveniently close to the feeder) before hopping over to the dinner table and chowing down.

This morning, with my brand-new binoculars in hand, I found myself sitting in the kitchen and gazing out the window (through my new binoculars!) to see these birds up close and personal. It’s like they’re right there — not a surprise but always a revelation. I can make out the tiniest details, the individual fibers on the feathers, the alert glint in each bird’s eye. 

Some of the birds I’ve actually learned to identify. That’s kind of neat, for it allows me to talk learnedly about what I have observed. Serious birders are really into that sort of thing, and most keep ongoing records of the different species they have seen. At first glance, these “life lists” of birds are just checkmarks on a page. But they’re really much, much more. They’re personal histories of adventures gone by, each one calling to mind the scene and setting where a particular bird was seen. They are, it occurs to me, a lot like fishing journals, those written accounts of fishing trips made months or years before — accounts which allow me to relive moments long gone by, at least for as long as I can remember the details.

I used to have a bird list of my own. I started it way-back-when in preparation for that trip out west. It’s long gone now, though. I guess I’ll just have to start over.

Sitting there, watching yet another feathered friend grab another tasty seed from the feeder, I also realize that I need to broaden my hunting grounds — but how?

I know – I’ll check the Interweb!

So off I go to the Atlanta Audubon site. It’s www.atlantaaudubon.org.

One of the first things I find there is a link (via the site’s GO BIRDING tab and the BIRDING RESOURCES option in the menu) to a “Checklist of Atlanta Birds.” Aha! My life list is reborn! I print one out straightaway.

And then (lo and behold!) what do I see on the right side of the homepage but a scrolling list of field trips!

I scroll a bit and watch the list of field trips flow by. The possibilities are many, and some of the sites look familiar. There’s an outing planned on the Noonday Creek greenway on Feb. 3, I see, and another at the Cochran Shoals Unit of the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on Feb. 13. There are lots of others too. Each listing includes contact info pointing toward the person leading the trip. 

According to the site, beginners (like me) are welcome on these trips Reading further, I learn that if you don’t have binoculars it’s usually possible to borrow some if you let the trip leader know in advance.

I jotted down some notes. I’m going to have to check these out!

You might enjoy checking them out too. If you do, and if you see me at one of them, be sure to say hello. I’ll be the one with the brand-new binoculars, the one asking all the “newbie” questions, the one with the slightly puzzled look on my face. 

I really won’t have any idea what I’m doing, but that’ll be OK because that’s the way it is when you try something new. The birds won’t mind, I’m sure — and I’ll be having fun!

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