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Posts tagged ‘Laughing Gulls’

Travel Theme: Birds (A Few of My Favorite Things)

Where’s My Backpack? is the blog that hosts a weekly travel theme.  This week, the travel theme is BIRDS.  The following is my submission on this theme.  To see how others have responded, visit Travel Theme: Birds.

Birds: A Few of My Favorite Things

I have always liked birds, but I became a “birder” when I moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, and a friend introduced me to bird watching.  With binoculars and field guide in hand, I would catalog the birds I saw.  My life list back then had more than 100 birds recorded.  Eventually I drifted away from taking official birding trips and stopped adding new entries to my life list.  But I still love birds and notice them wherever I go.  And I delight when I see a new species for the first time. 

Western Gull, Monterey, CA

Western Gull, Monterey, CA

laughing gulls 2aMy favorite birds from living in South Texas were Laughing Gulls.  They are not very unique down there, but they were different than the gulls from Southern California.  Besides, their name was apt:  their calls really did sound like they were laughing and cackling and chortling.  Every time I would travel to Padre Island, flocks of Laughing Gulls would come around, looking for popcorn or chips.  They were always quite fun!  And if we did not feed them quickly enough, they would dive bomb us. They would even invade the blankets when we looked away, pulling things apart looking for food.  

This video lets you hear them laughing!

laughing gulls 3

feeding gulls

I also used to travel quite frequently to Ashland, Oregon.  And when I did I would always visit Lithia Park.  It is a great city park with a babbling brook, hiking trails, and gorgeous trees and flowers.  It also was home to some swans and a variety of ducks.  I was especially intrigued by the Mute Swans, noting that they reportedly mated for life. Although the specific swans have changed over time, Mute Swans have been a part of the park’s Upper Duck Pond for at least 70 years. 

Here are some photos of the Mute Swans from one of my visits:


swan side view

swan wings

swan upclose

The Mallards and Wood Ducks visit Lithia Park often as well:

female mallard


wood duck

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 “I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”   Henry David Thoreau

 “Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”    Henry Van Dyke

 “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”   William Blake

 “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”  Robert Lynd

 “I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.”  Kathi Hutton

“Birds have done great jobs for the progression of humanity:  They kept alive our love for freedom and they insistently motivated us to reach the skies, to reach the stars!”  Mehmet Murat ildan

“I hope you love birds too.  It is economical.  It saves going to heaven.”  Emily Dickinson

Sandy Taught Me about Bird Watching

On her blog Classroom as Microcosm, Siobhan Curious posted the third prompt in her Writing on Learning Exchange:  Who Taught You?  My answer to that topic is given below.  To see all the answers provided or to provide your own, visit her site.


Learning goes on everywhere.  And some of the best learning happens outside of a classroom as you encounter new people and new experiences.  When I look back on my life to reflect on who taught me what, lots of people come to mind.  My sister Barbara has taught me what it really means to be a friend and how small words of encouragement can have a big impact.  One of my leadership mentors taught me how important it is to appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the individuals on your team.  My mom taught me to love animals and to always extend a helping hand.  Others in my life have taught me the sort of person I do not want to be!  Lessons are everywhere!

When I try to settle on one person who taught me something concrete, I think of Sandy Tomlinson.  I met Sandy when I moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1980.  We both taught writing at Del Mar College.  Her friendship helped make Corpus Christi feel like home.  I learned many things from her about teaching and friendship.  But Sandy also introduced me to Bird Watching.

Jabiru, Photo from Wikipedia

Jabiru, Photo from Wikipedia

Bird Watching is one of those activities that you will never fully understand until you participate as a bird watcher.  South Texas is a migratory path for hundreds of birds, so it was a great place to be introduced to this life-long activity.  I could look out in my backyard and see not only sparrows but also such colorful birds as indigo and painted buntings.  We could go to the coast and see Whooping Cranes, roseate spoonbills, and a variety of gulls.  Once, we even saw a Jabiru!  This bird is typical to South America, but it had somehow gotten off course and spent a few days in Corpus Christi.

I did not just learn to marvel at the wide diversity of birds that were around me.  But I learned the best guide books, the best binoculars and scopes, and some key locations where birds could be found.  Making identifications was not an easy task.  It helped to know what details to pay attention to, including but not limited to the shape of the beak; facial, tail, and wing markings; differences between male and female and adult and juvenile birds; typical habitats; flight patterns; and vocalizations.  Before I knew it, lots of these details were second nature to me as I watched birds in the field.  We took several trips to locations specifically to find birds we had not seen before.  I even started a life list—and got up to over 100 different birds recorded before I drifted away from taking regular birding trips.

Laughing Gulls

Laughing Gulls

Red Winged Black Bird

Red Winged Black Bird



Western Grebe

Western Grebe



All these details I learned are still there, waiting to be called upon every time I stop to marvel at birds wherever I am traveling.  I surprise myself sometimes when I make an identification or at least know what details to monitor for when I can check my sighting against a good bird book.  I think of Sandy whenever I am watching birds.  She died years ago, but lives on in my heart, in the birds around me, and in the many lessons she taught me about birding, enjoying nature, and living life to the fullest.

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 I hope you love birds too.  It is economical. It saves going to heaven.  Emily Dickinson

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.   Chinese Proverb

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no bird sang there except those that sang best.  Henry Van Dyke

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.  William Blake

As long as I live, I’ll hear water-falls and birds and winds sing.  I’ll interpret the rocks. Learn the language of the flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.  John Muir

No bird, but an invisible thing, a voice, a mystery.  William Wordsworth

In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.  Robert Lynd

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