What is it like to be a beginner birdwatcher? It is exciting but also a bit overwhelming. Do I have the right gear? Will I be able to identify the birds I see? These are common questions beginner birders ask and I have found that the answers don’t matter. All that matters is that I start somewhere.
As I start my birding career, I set my expectations high with the goal of spotting not just one, but all five native Kentucky hawk species. I find that going into the field trying to spot certain species trains my eye and my patience. According to “National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southeastern States,” Red-Tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Broad-Winged Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and Sharp-Shinned Hawks are all native to the Louisville area and make their home in The Parklands.
I am specifically looking for hawks because of their classification as “birds of prey”, along with other species like vultures, eagles, owls and falcons. To me, “bird of prey” is a delicate term describing what these birds really are—domineering predators of the sky. Typically, we think of most birds as eating worms, seeds, and whatever is in our backyard feeder. However, birds of prey have special adaptations relating to their eyes, beaks, and talons that allow them to be hunters in the sky preying on fish, reptiles, rodents, and even other birds. Our partners at Raptor Rehab introduced me to these powerful birds during my time as a Summer Camp Counselor and I have been fascinated ever since. Choosing a species of interest to me motivates me to get out in the park to bird.
As I dive into bird watching this fall and winter, I am looking forward to quiet time spent in nature and the opportunity to view unique Kentucky species like the Red-Tailed Hawk. Bird watching is an exercise in patience, so don’t give up if you don’t see the hawk you are looking for right away! Sometimes the journey can be better than the destination! So come out to the park to spend time among fall wildflowers, along our streams, and in our forests immersing yourself in the chase! You can catch me throughout The Parklands of Floyds Fork with my ranger gear and a pair of binoculars on the hunt for hawks. If you happen to spot me, come say hello, and we can trade notes on what we have seen! Happy Birding!
Interpretive Ranger James