Sunday, February 9, 2014

Baby’s first bird walk - Wilson Springs Ponds

Ellen and I have enjoyed all sorts of adventures together since we started dating in the summer of 2005. We’ve made it a point to explore our surroundings with every chance we get. We’ve been camping, hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, jet skiing, off-roading, and of course, birding, all over Idaho and Colorado. In March of last year, we found out we were about to start our most challenging and rewarding adventure yet – parenthood.

We were actually on a birding trip to southeast Arizona – our first real away-from-home birding vacation – when we started to suspect we might have a little one on the way. Despite the typical crummy feelings that come with early pregnancy, Ellen stuck by my side through several days in a row of pre-sunrise wake up calls, hikes in the desert heat, and long days of non-stop bird chasing. She didn’t lose steam at all once we got home from our trip either – we spent most of the summer doing all of our normal activities, including kayaking the Boise River, paddling at Lucky Peak, hiking and exploring around McCall, and off-roading in the Boise National Forest. Even at 38 and 39 weeks, right up until two days before our little girl was born, she was right by my side as we chased a few winter rarities around town.

Just before 3am on the day before Thanksgiving, our little girl was born. After a hard delivery and a rocky recovery, we got to bring our new little turkey, Nora Rai, home the day after Thanksgiving. It didn’t hurt to have a bird-themed holiday as an excuse to bring her home in a turkey outfit.

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Nora Rai, just 2 days old, on the way home from the hospital. November 29, 2013.

Despite the number of times friends and family members encouraged us to get the most out of our adventures before the baby came (“while we still could”), or told us how they used to do fun stuff (you know, before the baby came), we never planned to stop adventuring when our little girl arrived. We’re pretty happy with our hobbies, and see no reason not to share the world with our little girl, and our little girl with the world.

Of course there was some recovery time and a bit of a learning curve (not to mention another surgery Ellen had to endure just two weeks after Nora was born) before everybody was ready to get back out there, but at about four weeks old, Nora got to join us for our first family bird walk. Two days before Christmas, we went on a walk around Wilson Springs Ponds, with my mom joining us for the day.

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Ellen, Nora, and Grandma at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

Mom and baby did great – Nora didn’t make too much of a fuss, and Ellen got to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air, not to mention a nice variety of waterfowl which we got to photograph with our new camera (but that’s another story).

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Ellen and Nora at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

We didn’t have any rare finds on our short walk, but Wilsons Springs is always good for a nice variety of waterfowl, especially in the winter when it’s often the only open water to be found nearby. Below is just a sampling of what we found, including Lesser Scaup, Wood Ducks, Gadwalls, Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Mallards.

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Lesser Scaup at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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Wood Duck at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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Gadwall at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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Bufflehead at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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Bufflehead at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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Ring-necked Ducks and Mallards at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

Of course its hard to find any kind of waterfowl without also finding a few coots and gulls as well (including this Ring-billed with his mouth full).

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American Coots and a Ring-billed Gull at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

One find that was particularly fun was this Marsh Wren, who only felt like showing his rear end for a picture.

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Marsh Wren (well it’s butt, anyway) at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

Ted Floyd (a Colorado birder and editor of the ABA’s Birding magazine, whom we ran into a couple of times around Boulder County during our Colorado days) wrote an article that I really liked a couple years back about how he introduced his kids to birding:

“My daughter and I spent a good part of her first day of life at the hospital window. We saw a Golden Eagle fly by, and we listened to coyotes warbling. The next few weeks, we explored the canyons, marshes, and mesas near our home in Boulder County, Colorado. We took our first out-of-state birding trip when my daughter was three months old; with Rick Wright, we birded around Tucson, Arizona, finding such regional specialties as Abert’s Towhee and Gila Woodpecker—plus a locally uncommon Swamp Sparrow. You get the picture.

My son got an even earlier start. He and I had wandered out onto a hospital balcony within two hours of his birth. (Long story, but it involved an impending blizzard, a scarcity of doctors and nurses, and a bit of a “misunderstanding” about restricted areas in the hospital.) It was nearly midnight, so my son and I tried for Great Horned Owl. A few days later, he and I and his big sister got Eastern Screech-Owl for the Boulder Christmas Bird Count. The bird was a “save”—the only one recorded for the count.”

While we didn’t attempt to find any rooftop access at midnight during our hospital stay with Nora, I do subscribe to Ted’s way of thinking. We certainly don’t intend to force Nora into birding – but she’ll certainly have every opportunity from a young age to find her own way of loving nature and the outdoors. Maybe overhearing a few ducks while safely bundled away from the cold in her stroller will help her get started.

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Stoddard (hey that’s me!) and Ellen, with Nora safely bundled away from the cold, at Wilson Springs Ponds, Canyon County. December 23, 2013.

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