Today is National Bird Day. I love birdwatching and photographing them. When I was little, my brother and my grandmother both had pet parakeets. My grandmother had this little plastic bathtub and I loved watching her little bird hop into it and splash around while his cage was being cleaned. As much as I love birds, they scare the daylights out of me. I had a bad experience with a crow when I was younger. My next door neighbor had one as a pet. His name was Amos and he didn't like me. If I went outside when he was out, he'd chase me down and try to land on my head. I can't remember how many times that stupid bird pecked at my head or at my feet. It sounds funny now, but to a child, it was terrifying. This was in the 70s, remember, which was the same time The Birds came out. I hated that bird with a passion and that hatred stayed with me for a long time. Then when I began working as a vet assistant, I had to work on birds a few times. That was freaky because they're so fragile and you really have to be careful. For now, my love of birds consists mostly of birdwatching and photography.
I do, however, have a nine-year-old son who is obsessed with birds. He knows so much about them that he's thrown members of the Audubon Society into a frenzy when they couldn't answer his questions. Nathan's the type of kid that goes to a bird show and when they ask if anyone knows what type of bird it is, he gives the exact name including the region it's from. He cracks me up. We call him our little Bird Nerd. While most boys his age are reading books like Captain Underpants or Nate the Great, Nathan can sit for hours reading a 1000-page bird encyclopedia by National Geographic. He's totally obsessed with birds. Both he and his little brother collect the musical stuffed Audubon birds. They have over 100 of these. I don't even want to add up how much that has cost us. On a recent trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom, everyone was engrossed in the giraffes and other African animals, while Nathan was picking out the birds. He yells out, "That's a Victorious Ground Pigeon, the largest pigeon in the world!" Rick had to ask one of the bird experts to see if Nathan was right -- he was. I hope he continues with his interest and becomes an Orithologist someday. I can't even pronounce that, more or less understand what it would involve. Nathan and his birds -- if you ever have a question -- he's the one to ask!
This picture is of a rough-legged hawk. I took it here in the Flathead Valley when we were house hunting in August 2006. This guy was sitting right on a telephone wire and I got some really good shots of him. Rough-legged hawks are winter visitors here, coming down to escape the cold weather of the north. They're unique birds because they are only one of three hawks that have feathers all the way down their legs to their toes. We see them all the time in the winter, but by spring they've all headed north again. I've managed to get some pretty good pictures of birds since moving to Montana. This one is probably my favorite. For those who know me well, know I have a thing for bird feeders. That's why I've also gotten some pretty good pictures of bears, since they love birdseed too. The bears aren't a problem now, so I have 2 feeders up which are being frequented by red-breasted nuthatches and black-capped chickadees. I haven't seen many dark-eyed juncos yet, but they're another bird that hang out during the winter, so I'm sure they'll start showing up soon. Maybe I'll see one today on National Bird Day. Do you have a favorite bird? Mine is the bald eagle.