February 2019

Vol. 47, No. 1

Musings from the Blind Birder: Winter Birding

Martha Steele

The author handfeeding a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Photograph by Bob Stymeist.

I stood quietly with my hand extended on a frigid early February day at Moose Bog, near Island Pond, Vermont, waiting in anticipation. Several sunflower seeds were nestled in my bare palm. I waited until I felt a light, delicate touch of tiny feet clinging to my finger, a quick grab of a seed off my palm, a slight hesitation, and then the bird was gone. I asked Bob, who was watching from several feet away, "What was that?" "A Red-breasted Nuthatch." Then another bird landed, this one slightly heavier and gone quickly after grabbing a seed. "And that?" "Black-capped Chickadee." Yet another bird, this one much heavier with larger feet wrapping nearly entirely around my finger arrived and stood, getting several seeds. I ventured a guess: "Canada Jay?" Bob replied in the affirmative. For the next 10 minutes or so, I correctly identified each bird that landed on my outstretched hand. I was beaming, honing my skills at tactile bird identification.

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