The term “birdwatcher” conjures up images of serious-looking people dressed in loose-fitting khakis with matching safari hats carrying pencils and clipboards with binoculars around their necks and speaking in low tones. I would like to be one of those people, but my impression is that they are early risers, and that’s not me. Nevertheless during the middle of the day when the ducks are swimming, in the late afternoon when the ospreys are soaring, and in the evening when a blue heron is sitting on our pier watching the sunset over the South River with me (I sit about 75 yards away on our deck), the movements, sounds, and interactions of birds fascinate me.
Birdwatching accommodates social distancing, giving you something to do alone in the fresh air even in your backyard. Anne Arundel County’s many tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay enable a patient birdwatcher to spot water birds throughout the county. Thanks to birdwatching groups who have put their guidance and results online, you never really have to watch alone. A good set of binoculars and a bird feeder and seed to attract your preferred species are helpful—and purchasable online—but aren’t necessary to enjoy the action.
Step one is to spot the birds, and step two is to identify what you see. You can go well beyond that by counting different types of birds, identifying the numbers of males and females, and specifying their location and their migratory patterns, but so far I’m content with steps one and two. Perhaps it’s obvious to say that the bigger the bird, the easier it is to identify, but I remain challenged in distinguishing among ravens, a crows, and black vultures. Bald eagles and ospreys look similar from afar, but if one sails over you, which they seem to do readily, perhaps evaluating you or your pet’s edibility, they’re easy to tell apart.
When we no longer have to social distance, other web sites, such as Anne Arundel County Bird Club, can help you take birdwatching as far as you want to go with it, including guiding you to the best birdwatching locations (most are temporarily closed now) and offering meetings, lectures, and group birding activities.
If you see a bird that appears injured or otherwise in need, don’t let social distancing stop you from calling the a wildlife rescue organization listed on this page. From the tiniest to the biggest birds, they are happy to help.