Look and listen twice for those amazing winged creatures

While I have never watched birds like the tourists that call bird watching a hobby, I have always found it interesting to watch them around my yard when I get a chance.
They are curious critters. Depending upon the species, they can be seen pulling worms out of the ground, building mud based nests on the bank, swooping down and grabbing a mouse from a field, or just sitting singing tune.
For some birders it is that tune that intrigues them. Last summer I had the pleasure of doing a story on a group of professional birders working on the next edition of the Royal Ontario Museum Bird Atlas.
All of them were armed with binoculars and some with tape recorders. When you hear the term bird watcher you envision people with binoculars watching the birds. Interest ngly enough I was amazed at how much they depend on their hearing to bird watch.
Some of the more avid watchers can identify the call of hundreds of different bird species. Often that leads them to look for a specific type of bird with their binocs. or long camera lenses.
That really never clicked with me until this past week when I spoke with Mark Johnson of St. Paul, MN. who (forgive the pun) said that they heard a Great Grey Owl, but never saw it, during the 103rd Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.
How lucky we are to live where so many different types of birds can be seen and heard. It will make me look and listen twice next time I am outdoors wondering what the winged members of this planet are up to.
–Until then,
Ken