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Becoming a birder

Editorial: I once went on a bird safari and it was a bit of a failure. It was in Bundala National Park in Sri Lanka. I even bought binoculars on my way there during a stopover in London. But I never got the hang of them and ended up pretending to see what I wasn’t seeing at all.

Then last fall a sister of mine gave me a bird feeder for my birthday. It’s simple in design, made of several shades of green glass, and perfect for my garden. This spring I came upon a post to hang it from and just like that I became a birder.

That same sister (I have four of them) also gave me The Encyclopedia of North American Birds that lists over 500 species. When I put the feeder up I only knew one of them.

I placed the bird feeder not far from my kitchen window and within a couple of hours yellow, red, orange birds were landing for a meal; cute little brown ones too. And yes, I googled “how do birds know there is a feeder in the neighbourhood”.

Becoming a birder

Then the squirrels came and I became obsessed with keeping them away. I wrapped the post in wire mesh, which just slowed them down a bit. I bought what I hoped was a squirrel-proof feeder, abandoning the beautiful green one that had started this whole undertaking. Nope. I extended the pole that holds the feeder. Didn’t work. Someone suggested Vaseline (aka petroleum jelly)—to spread it thickly on the pole. And so I did and got a chuckle watching the squirrels slide off. They didn’t give up, of course, but only the strongest can reach the feeder and I can deal with that.

I wanted to put names to faces so bought a camera with a super long Leica lens (Lumix 30x travel zoom camera) and now can take my time to find each bird image in the book. Black-Capped Chickadees (aka Eastern Chickadee) are regular visitors. The “red bird” is a male cardinal. The female cardinal is brown with red accents. They mate for life, don’t migrate and come to feeders in winter. So I can be a birder year round.

My travel plans are changing with my new found hobby. Have decided to winter in Nicaragua, famous for its birds. I bought better binoculars and am practicing how to use them without my eyelashes getting in the way. This calls for a return visit to Costa Rica, maybe to India, why not Sri Lanka…

Sylvia Fanjoy

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