Dr. John Harris is retiring after this semester and I finally made it to two of his last few Bird Walks, a campus activity much loved and talked about by fellow students.
Despite currently being in his Birds and Birding class, I regretfully haven’t had the chance to go on any of his scheduled bird-watching sessions. I did do my own Bird Walks though but as I quickly found out, it’s not nearly as interesting or fun as Dr. Harris’ — since I wasn’t spending half the time adjusting my faulty binoculars and cursing epithets when a bird I was watching flies away.
For one thing, I was able to observe and write down more than my poor average of two birds in my field observations. In a very short distance across campus, he quickly pointed out a tiny Hummingbird’s nest hidden in a tree near Holmgren Meadow (discovered by a student), a little Bushtit fluttering in the tall branches near Leona Creek, and a Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead.
He also had quite the ear as he was able to distinguish the song repertoire of the Song Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, and Pacific-slope Flycatcher along the way.
As many of my fellow classmates have noticed, American Robins and California Towhees were rampant everywhere on campus much to our chagrin as we were on a lookout for cooler, less common birds.
But it was pretty awesome when Dr. Harris spotted a Robin’s nest sitting on a low branch of a tree on the left side of the Library. It was so close to us, I felt a sudden fear that my very breath could knock the delicate nest off.
The biggest highlight of the day was when a student mentioned seeing a Woodpecker’s nest in the tree outside of the Music Building so we rushed over there. There were three distinct holes on the tall branch drilled out by the Woodpecker.
We waited, watched, giggled, and felt cricks in our necks until a small male Nuttall’s Woodpecker flew in and stuck his head inside the last hole. You’d instantly knew it was one because of the distinctive black-and-white barred back and red cap. We then got even more excited when his female partner flew into the hole after the male left.
Overall, it was a memorable experience especially during a beautiful sunny day like today. Did I already mention how much I regret not going on one earlier?
He only has a few Bird Walks left until the last day of classes next week so I’d recommend joining one for fun.
Bird Walks will take place next Monday, May 6 at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and next Tuesday, May 7 at 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The group meets every time in front of the National Sciences Building.