Don, Lillian and Scott Simon. We had a great time taking him birding.
We were just on NPR radio, the Scott Simon Saturday Weekend Edition show, where we took him for a bird walk and he mentioned our new field guide, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Listen to the complete interview here.
Test your birding skill, NPR has a fun game you can play of matching the song and photo of some of the birds we saw with Scott. They used Lillian's photos of the birds.
We had great fun introducing self-admitted city guy, Scott, to the experience of seeing beautiful birds up close through binoculars and a spotting scope. Scott really seemed to be getting into birding and realizing why about 50 million Americans are hooked on watching birds.
We took Scott to Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA, a beautiful 1,425 natural area with great bird habitat. We started by looking at the bird feeders by the visitor center in order to teach Scott how to hold binoculars and spot birds.
Tip: Put the eyecups on the binoculars down if you are wearing eyeglasses, or up, if you are not wearing eyeglasses. Look at the bird with your eyes first, then raise the binoculars up while keeping your eyes on the bird.
Scott got the hang of it and was able to see Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Brown Creeper. At first the birds were reluctant to come to the feeders because there was a Cooper's Hawk in the area and we all saw it fly overhead. Cooper's Hawks hunt small birds but don't stay all day at the feeder.
Tip: Provide a brush pile, dense evergreens or other cover near your bird feeder so birds can seek safety there if a hawk comes by.
We next took a walk through a wooded area, then emerged to a boardwalk that led through cattails and marsh vegetation, out to a pond. We saw and heard Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches in the trees and a lone Pine Siskin with the Goldfinches. Many sparrows seek grassy, shrubby areas as preferred habitat. Their mostly brown coloration helps them blend into their habitat. Pine Siskins are called an "irruptive species" because, in some years when their food supply is low, large numbers migrate south from their northern and western breeding areas across the lower 48 states, where they can often be seen at bird feeders.
While many people just watch birds at their feeders and around the home, 20 million Americans take trips each year expressly to see more unusual birds.
We continued out the boardwalk and set up a spotting scope and looked over the pond. Seeing the fantastic iridescent green of a male Mallard's head gleaming in the sunlight brought a "wow" reaction from Scott. Next we saw a beautiful Great Blue Heron, preening at the edge of the grasses, a species new to Scott.
At a grassy meadow past the pond, Huntley has bird houses on poles in the meadow, perfect for attracting nesting Eastern Bluebirds. We spotted some bluebirds in the trees and Scott got to see why this bird has a whole national organization devoted to it. Bluebirds are a show-stopper and beloved by millions.
It was a thrill for us to take Scott birding. We told him how we met, over 30 years ago (we've been married for 29), when hawk-watcher Lillian took a bird course given by Don and how lucky we have been (after 30 plus books and our own PBS birding show) to have introduced so many people to the passion of birding.
Thanks to Scott for having us on his show and a special thanks to his producer Justine Kenin. Excellent job!