Birdwatching

Bird and birdwatching news has been flooding my various social media feeds. I suspect my google searches about identifying the birds I’ve seen at our feeders, and in my travels, have driven this overload. Although, in the time of this pandemic, it appears everyone has decided to do some birdwatching. It’s easy to do while isolating ourselves from the rest of society, even for city dwellers. The Associated Press reports a 10 – 15 percent increase in the sale of birding merchandise.

CardinalBack when we published a pet tabloid (Pet Tails Magazine, 2005-2014), I wrote an article about birdwatching. I had needed to plug an empty hole on a page, and it was very popular at that time, too. It was in May of 2009, and we were nearing the end of The Great Recession. Watching birds was a cheap hobby and a way to do something together as a family without spending lots of money. Birdwatching seems to be the go-to panacea for what ails our society.

Richard and I used to enjoy bird watching when we had a home in Massachusetts. It had a large, raised deck, and similar to our RV home, it abutted nature conservation land. Our house backed up to the woods, bringing lots of birds to our feeders. Most weekdays after work, we would sit on the deck with beers and binoculars to destress from the day. I can’t say that the birds helped as much as the beers, but the pair complemented each other well. (When birds not native to Massachusetts started to appear at the feeder, it was time to head inside.)

We’re Bird Watching Again

Now that a wildlife refuge surrounds us, the birds are impossible to ignore. We have a small pair of binoculars that came with us from Massachusetts, and we have put up some feeders. Although there is not near as much stress in our lives these days, we still end most by watching birds – and having some beers.

I now find myself watching birds while I walk dogs, too. With businesses closed and folks staying home, I can hear the early morning cacophony of bird noise in a neighborhood. It’s no longer drowned out by the rumblings of cars and trucks, or the roar of low flying planes from Norfolk Airport. It is amazing how loud the birds can be and how unique each one’s call. But I’m not yet ready to identify a bird by the sound it makes; I use it only to know in which direction to look.

It’s Not Easy!

House Finch on Bare BranchYou would think this is an easy hobby, but it’s not – at least the identification part of it. Often after noting the type of bill the feathered creature has and remembering that I need to check out its tail, the flighty critter has taken off.

Frequently, there are very slight differences between species. Do you know how hard it is to tell a house finch from a purple finch? This guy is a house finch — I think. I downloaded a bird identifier app from the Audubon. I like it in part because it helps me remember all the things I need to look at to identify a bird properly. It also has multiple pictures of the same type from different angles, which other apps I have tried do not.

I next need to start keeping a journal of those that I have seen. I am sure there’s an app out there for that, too.

There’s Always a Podcast

Listening to podcasts has kept me sane the last few years, as I drive all over Virginia Beach to visit animals needing care. The variety of topics that they cover is amazing. So when I decided to see if there was one on birdwatching, I wasn’t surprised to have a half dozen pop up on Apple Podcasts. I’ve now subscribed to the American Birding Podcast and Out There With the Birds. If nothing else, they will get my mind off the pandemic and stop me from listening to so many of the political talking heads.

Protect the Birds For the Next Time

During the last few months, our planet has begun to heal due to our efforts to contend with COVID-19. There is less air pollution, the rivers are cleaner,  and sea turtles have returned to deserted beaches to lay eggs. But what about wild birds?

Common Grackle
The common grackle has suffered a 61% decline in population since 1974.

Despite their ubiquitous nature, the bird population in North America has been on a decline. Over three billion have disappeared in the last fifty years. The main reason for this decline is the loss of habitat, something not easily restored in a matter of months. But there are things we can all do to protect them. Here are a few:

We never know when the next pandemic will strike, and we’ll be needing to pull out the binoculars for a bit of birdwatching.

Relearning How to Shower

When living in an RV full-time, a honey wagon is needed by those without a sewage connection.When living in an RV full-time, and it doesn’t have a sewer system connection, you need to be very conscious of your water usage. Any water brought in must be taken out via the storage tanks. Because we wanted a site by the creek, we knew we’d be reliant upon the weekly services of a honey wagon. Every Monday morning, the honey wagon hooks up and drains our three tanks—one black water tank (toilet, 50 gals.) and two grey water tanks (sinks and shower, 85 gals.).

In the shower this morning, as I scrubbed my hair with my eyes closed, I could hear the birds loudly chirping. The water from the showerhead was off, and through the skylight the sun was filling the enclosure with bright light. It is going to be a beautiful day the red-winged blackbirds were telling me. I used to spend 15 minutes in a stream of hot water, but now I am usually in and out in about eight. And with the promise of such gorgeous weather, I didn’t feel deprived. I can’t say the same on a cold winter day. Liv

Accidently Going Green

To be honest, I never used to give much thought to water usage. At some point, I did learn to turn off the faucet while brushing my teeth. I also felt good about trying to run the dishwasher only when it was full. And finding a dripping tap always caused thoughts about how wasteful the person was being. Therefore, whenever I heard something about its conservation, I self-righteously thought, no problem, got it covered.

But this changed over the last year when a Swedish teenager raised my climate change awareness to the sky, and the associated guilt. I’ve learned that small homes are more environmentally friendly in many ways, and bolstered my feelings that living in an RV full-time was the right way to go. But not only for us.

Showering a New Way

I recently did a bit of research to see how much water a person uses per day. Most of the newer information indicates that, on average, a person uses 55 gallons per day. I then narrowed in on the numbers only related to our grey water tanks. It appears that folks typically use two gallons per minute in the shower.

Due to our lack of sewage hookup, how we showered needed to change. It is no longer as simple as, turn on the water, lather and scrub, rinse, and turn off the water. Nope! Now it consists of:

  • Turn on the water and wet down body
  • Turn off the water
  • Lather up and scrub
  • Turn on water to rinse body and wet hair
  • Turn off the water
  • Lather up and scrub hair
  • Turn on water to rinse hair
  • Turn off the water

I’m not so big – yet – that it takes me a full minute to wet down my body and hair. And even if it did, that equals two gallons; rinsing, another two gallons. So instead of averaging 30 gallons of water for my former 15-minute, hot shower, it’s now only about four. With two of us following the same routine — minus the hair washing for one of us, 60 gallons drops to eight.  That’s an 86% reduction in water usage! Living in an RV full time

Hand Washing Gone Viral

Water running as hands are scrubbed.I cringe whenever I see a faucet gushing out water, as someone demonstrates how to wash our hands during this time of the pandemic. As they meticulously scrub their hands, the water continues to stream out in the background. That’s at least two gallons per hand wash, and how many gallons per day? You can often use your wrist or a towel to turn off the faucet as you scrub

Please turn off the tap while you wash—and make Greta proud.