If you’re looking for a new hobby, try birding.

I do find it ironic that one of the tasks that brings me great joy is writing for a publication that has the word TRAVELER in its title during a time in my life when I have traveled the least! 

As we reach a full year of a global pandemic, even though my travels have decreased, I can say a few things have changed for the better. 

1. My priorities in life have shifted greatly.

2. My meatloaf game is excellent now. As a matter of fact, my cooking is much improved!

3. Birds are a great source of entertainment. 

4. I have learned that I don’t need as much stuff as I once thought I did. 

It is the No. 3 on that list that I want to focus on in this little diddy for the River Hills Traveler this month. BIRDS! 

Let’s be honest, there’s only so much Netflix, Disney+, Instagram, and Facebook a person can stand in a day. 

While I do my best to get my daughter and I away from the glowing screens and into the great outdoors, sometimes the weather and our schedules do not allow for it. 

Take February 9, 2021, for example. Snow, ice, a high of 18 degrees, and a mountain of digital schoolwork to catch up on, meant a day indoors looking at screens. 

Except for those moments that I caught both of us staring out the windows at our bird feeders, it was a pretty dismal and monotonous day.  

My daughter, Karlene, and I have always enjoyed looking at wildlife, but over the past year we have become more and more interested in birds. 

From putting out extra bird feeders to breaking down to mask up, social distance, and brave the bitter cold to explore the World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis on a freezing January day, our intrigue is only increasing. 

I have caught my daughter doing many Google searches for information about birds. Often she shares her new wealth of factoids with me on car rides to and from school. 

Andean Condor at the Bird Sanctuary. Her name is Dorothy.

One day when we were on a longer drive to check on our camper, she gave me a full-blown lecture about the importance of the turkey vulture. 

That could explain why she just HAD to have a new turkey vulture plushie from the World Bird Sanctuary during our January visit. 

Lately, when she creates artworks for her grandfather, the subjects at hand are various birds she enjoys watching and learning about. 

Some of those sketches are quite lovely. I know I am a bit biased as her mom. 

If I ask her to put away laundry, study for geometry, and fill the bird feeders, you can guess which one of those tasks she is most likely to do first without much debate about the necessity for such a chore. 

My goodness, sometimes I don’t even have to ask her to fill the bird feeders. It just magically happens! 

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Her love of the birds has rubbed off on me, too. I requested new bird feeders for my birthday this year, along with the bird seed I received for Christmas. 

Tufted Titmouse

I have even found myself taking more photographs of those fluttering sources of happiness over the past year. 

It can be quite challenging to get a sharp image because they are constantly moving, but perhaps a challenge is what I need to keep my mind a bit more sharp these days! 

For any of you who would like to experience birding for yourselves, there are several great resources available for those who are new to the bird watching world. 

First off, there is the Missouri Birding Society. Their website has a lot of great information to offer. 

You can visit it at mobirds.org to learn more about what they do, locate great birding locations around the state, and more. 

If you visit nature.mdc.mo.gov and search “bird watching,” there are many results for information housed with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website. 

There are great articles to read, tips for identifying birds, features on bird habits and behaviors, and even more to explore. 

Additionally, if you haven’t tried it yet, buy some bird seed and a bird feeder. Put them in locations where you can watch from your windows. 

They make for some excellent distractions from the mundane and monotonous days that tend to accompany a global pandemic. 

Hawk at the Bird Sanctuary.

And, as I mentioned before, consider a visit to the World Bird Sanctuary. They currently require masks and social distancing, but those are things that I greatly appreciated when I went. 

I felt safe in my little family unit. The gift shop even required visitors to only enter and exit with the group you came with, and only one group was allowed in at a time. 

You can learn more about the World Bird Sanctuary at worldbirdsanctuary.org. The site can help you plot your visit and see what you can do to help them help birds in need. 

So, there you have it, this month I had to write an article “for the birds.” 

All cliches aside, I hope you can find some joy in this activity in the upcoming months. 

Missouri has a great variety of birds to enjoy! 

(Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)

We think is a female Downy Woodpecker (hence no red)  

Bald eagle at the Bird Sanctuary.

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