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Backyard bird watching

Olivia Soule
Guest Commentary

There is something so civilized about giving names to the birds that surround us. I bought a book, called “The New Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America,” and now when I see a bird I want to identify, first I Google “bird species common to Lake Tahoe,” and find the bird, then I read more about it in my bird guide.

One of the first birds I identified by his reddish-orange breast and gray back was the American robin. I saw him skittering around on the neighbor’s deck, jumping in the grass, fluttering his wings and jumping back onto the deck. Another bird that I’ve seen a lot is the Stellar’s Jay, with blue wings and a black head. Then there are the birds that I haven’t identified yet, some are solid black with a greenish sheen in the sun and some are more of a gray and brown color, that make a harsh and short one-note chirp, and occasionally give a falsetto “wheee.” The Canada Geese, which, according to my book, were once a symbol of “wild North America,” are everywhere, and can be identified easily by their white chinstraps and white bottoms. They like to travel around in large flocks and cleaning up after they graze the backyard is a battle.

Birds I’ve seen overhead less are the California seagull, the Bald Eagle, and the osprey. On the ground I’ve seen turkey vultures, feasting on roadkill in the street, and Mallard ducks. I’m hoping to spot a red-tailed hawk in flight someday.

At first, I thought there was an owl living in the pine tree above my roof, because I constantly heard a “who,” but now I think it’s actually the mourning dove, because I saw some dove-like birds fly onto the roof and make a “who” sound. It makes sense, because the dove is often mistaken for the owl. I hear a woodpecker pecking sometimes, but have not seen him.

I also enjoy spotting the other animals, including the beaver that builds his dam in the Truckee River, the raccoons and coyotes that scamper around under the cover of darkness and black bears that emerging from the winter stupor, ready for mating season. I’m hoping the black bear won’t decide to come in and join me for a meal anytime soon.

Even the ladybugs congregating in the smallest places are worth noticing. The keen observer will see and hear a large wealth of wildlife in Lake Tahoe. Though Mother Nature doesn’t give them a name, we bipeds, who put words to everything, find it rewarding to know how to name them. Always being connected into the loop of economy, current events and technology can cause us to become blinded by our own minds. Happiness can be found. Go outdoors, be silent and use your senses.


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