WOODS ‘N’ WATER: It’s for the birds, and it’s wonderful

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: It’s for the birds, and it’s wonderful


A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Meriden Dog Park with our nine-pound super dog, Charlie. He was there to meet a new girlfriend by the name of Ruby.

As the pups played, Ruby’s owner Frank Palumbo and I sat on one of the benches chatting.

All of a sudden I heard the familiar sound of a woodpecker, and by the sound I knew it to be a pileated woodpecker thanks to one of my hunting buddies, Pete Picone.

I would not say that seeing one of these larger-than-usual woodpeckers is common, so I was quite excited to see it banging away on a tree in the Meriden Dog Park. I pointed it out to Frank and we watched as the woodpecker did its work without worrying about us or the dogs playing in the park.

This started me to wondering about all of the wild birds I have seen in my outdoor ventures, but really never paid them any attention because I took them for granted. If you take the time to really listen to them as they flit about the woods they can really be fun to watch.

Now, I am not what you would call a birdwatcher, but thanks to things I have learned, especially from guys like Picone, I have really come to marvel at many of the things I see and hear when I am in the woods, and this includes wild song birds.

Oh, I do have a few I favor, like cardinals, chickadees, crows, blue jays, robins and my all-time favorite, the red-winged blackbird.

Why the red-winged blackbird? Because for me this bird is the true harbinger of spring, not the robin. I can find robins year-round in some parts of Connecticut, but when I hear the call of the red-winged blackbird it tells me that warmer times are here and spring is just around the corner.

But then maybe I’m just one of those old codgers who still finds wonder in so many of nature’s critters. Also on the top of my bird list is the bald eagle, not only because it is the emblem of our great country, but because it has returned in places that I never thought I would see them again.

Edna and I saw them a couple of times in our stay in New York and also when we traveled to the more northern areas, like Maine and Canada. Now I only have to spend some time at Hanover Pond right here in South Meriden to see a bald eagle.

You would be surprised by the number of folks who miss seeing one of these majestic birds in our area. At one time this was unthinkable.

There are other feathered critters that get my attention and admiration, including the tiny hummingbird that shows up at our hummingbird feeder during the summer months.

Another of my favorites when I am in the woods on a hunting trip is the chickadee. These little critters always get my attention. They are brave little birds and I have had them even perch on the brim of my hat and the barrell of my shotgun as I sat motionless in a treestand waiting for a deer to show up.

My trips afield with Picone, a wildlife biologist, now have me looking and listening for all of the feathered critters in our area. If you ever get a chance to go on a Quinnipiac River Watershed Association nature walk with Picone, by all means take it. I promise he will enlighten your appreciation for nature and the feathered creatures that are there, if you know what to look for and listen to.

Oh, I can already hear some of the guffaws from some individuals who take nature for granted. It’s really too bad because they don’t know what they are missing.

I get news releases regarding birdwatching and a recent one came through with the title “Birding for Your Health.” It went on to say that birding is a multi-faceted activity and can easily be added to an exercise regime.

I often wonder just how many folks who walk our trails or at Hubbard Park miss out on so much of the things going on in nature simply because they do not take the time to look and listen. And I am not talking about the once-wild Canada geese that now frequent the park that have been turned into domestic beggars by well-meaning folks who continually feed them, but that is another story.

Over the years, I have also found it interesting to tell the various birds I see in the air by their flight characteristics. However, I did find out it is not always appreciated when you share that knowledge with others.

We were down in West Virginia at an Outdoor Writers Association of America seminar a number of years ago and Maine writer Stu Bristol and I were having lunch at a scenic restaurant located on a mountainside overlooking a valley.

Gliding around below us were some turkey buzzards, and I do have to admit that these carrion eaters do look graceful in flight even though they wag their wings a bit. Sitting at the table next to us was a small boy and a lady I presumed to be his grandmother. The kid remarked on the birds and asked the lady what they were.

“Those are bald eagles,” was her reply and I almost choked on my sandwich.

Stu and I both looked at each other and then your old blabbermouth outdoor writer had to correct her. When I told her they were turkey buzzards she became quite indignant.

“You could have let him believe that they were eagles,” she said.

I apologized and let it go at that. I guess there is more to the saying “ignorance is bliss” than I thought.

Depending on the individual, birding can be as easy as a walk in the neighborhood or a local park. Did you ever notice the orioles at Hubbard Park? It took me a while, but I finally saw them. And my favorite, the red-winged blackbird, can be found in the marshes along bodies of water.

For my entire life I have always been fascinated by the red-winged blackbirds that I ran into during my many fishing forays on the Quinnipiac River and this past spring and summer at our Meriden Dog Park.

Just for the heck of it, try and take some time to listen and see some of nature’s many wonders. Like they say, “Birding can be good for your health.”

Ya gotta be kidding

December 29, 10 a.m. While all of the ice in our area was disappearing, I drove by a cove on the Connecticut River and saw two brave souls ice fishing.

I was so shocked I turned my car around for another look. Sure enough, they were ice fishing.

Figure that one out and, NO, I am not kidding!

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our great country.