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January Update

Well, well, a new year is upon us. For many of us, that means reflections on the past year and new resolutions to tackle. I, like many others, find that I give up on resolutions quickly. The first of January and through the month typically brings out LOTS of new runners and exercisers and by Groundhog Day, the streets and gyms have quieted back down. As I understand it, that’s because resolutions scare our brains into fleeing. That is, we try to tackle something so large and complex, we trigger our ‘fight / flight’ mechanism and soon determine that hiding under the covers will be much safer. So, I go about my attempts to grow and improve on the philosophy that if I improve just a little bit each and every day, week and month, pretty soon I’ve improved a lot.

In book news, I have not released a new book, yet, however have started work on a second edition of Belize. I am planning a birding tour of Belize in late fall and this book will be a companion to the tour. Once again, you may say “Laura, you have no knowledge of or experience in running a tour”. And to you I say, yes, my friend, that is true. But I didn’t know how to…buy a house, build a technology solution, or write a book…until I jumped in and did it. So I’m breaking it down, learning the ropes and taking it small. The first tour will be a pilot with people I know who will give me honest feedback and not strangle me if it’s not perfect. Then the second tour will be better etc.

And in birding news, December did not bring a TON of new birds…ok almost none…but it gives me the chance to go through the memories of the year and find some favorites. Some of the birds I will share here are literally from my back yard and some are from my camera roll from the year gone by (sniff). So on a day when, in Ohio, we have gray skies, spitty mist and thirty something degrees, I will jump in my time machine and go back to better weather days.

Enjoy!

Merlin says Eastern-wood Peewee or Willow Flycatcher. These are tricky to id…feedback welcome, this is from central Ohio in May

A Palm Warbler sporting its lovely chestnut colored cap in spring

An Osprey with a particularly intense expression and cool lighting on its tail feathers

Green Heron on a summer morning, oh how I miss you!

December Update

On the heels of the release of Mindful Birding: A Beginner’s Guide, you may be asking yourself “why, Laura, would I need a book about birds of Seattle if I live in (INSERT CITY and STATE HERE)?” This month’s blog features some of the cool stuff in the new book that may just pique your interest. And besides, birding this time of year is chilly business so I have way fewer new photos to share…just bein’ real.

Mindful Bird book cover

Birding Learning Curve

Have you considered getting started with birdwatching but got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of birds? The United States is home to in the neighborhood of 1000 birds in our, um, neighborhoods so who could blame you? In the new book, I explain how birding, like pretty much anything new, will have a learning curve that starts out slow but eventually takes off. And I offer an approach to get past our mind’s tendency to put on the brakes when we get overwhelmed.

birding learning curve graphic
Birdbrain Learning Curve © Laura McDermott

Keys to Identification

As I wrote this book, I went back to the basics to think through how I learned to identify birds way back when. Similar to explaining to someone how to back out of the driveway when we’ve gotten to the point of doing that from “muscle memory,” that task was harder than I realized. But in the interest of sharing my knowledge, write it down I did. I then included a chapter on visual ID, a chapter on audio ID, and each featured bird includes a table of quick identifiers. Here’s an example along with one of my favorite up close and personal experiences with the MYSTERY BIRD.

Sandhill Crane photo
Mystery Bird! Sandhill Crane
BIRD IDENTIFIERSSANDHILL CRANE
ColorOverall gray with red around eyes
Shape & sizeTall, heavy body with long neck; 47 inches
Distinguishing characteristicsGather in large flocks, dance
Audio characteristicsLoud, bugling call
Typical locationAround marshy areas, bogs

And finally, recent bird sightings

Red-bellied Woodpecker wonders why it is not called a Red-headed Woodpecker
Wild Turkey celebrates Thanksgiving

November Update

Mindful Bird book cover
Hot off the press!

Mindful Birding: A Beginner’s Guide, my new book, features the amazing work of a team of friends, family, neighbors and fellow birding enthusiasts from Seattle and Ohio. The focus is on teaching my friend and college roommate, Renée, how to get started with birding and mindfulness. And get started she did with gusto. She took nearly all of the photos featured in the book, improved her health through regular walking and is now a card carrying, birding nerd like me. This month’s blog features Renée’s photography in the hopes of inspiring you to also join the club.

BIRDING RULES!!!

“Birding goes hand in hand with mindfulness, and this book is a great resource to get you started doing both! Laura’s enthusiasm, humor, and birding knowledge make this an enjoyable and insightful read.” –Seymore Gulls, Portland, OR birdwatcher/guide, author of Neighborhood Birding 101

Birds of Seattle

photo of Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bushtit
photo of Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
photo of Rhinoceros Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet

October update: Seattle in September

In prep to release Mindful Birding: A Beginner’s Guide, my new book featuring birds of Seattle, I visited my friend Renée in Seattle in September. We had a birding marathon. For real, we walked over 26.2 miles in 4 days, visited the locations highlighted in the new book and saw over 60 species of birds. Not bad for a pretty quick trip.

Anna’s Hummingbird stretches his wing casually, while showing his stunning stuff
Sandhill Cranes jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up, jump down
Spotted Towhee smiles and looks quite pleased
Gadwall takes a snooze

September Blog

Late summer birding can be quiet as many birds are hiding out as they molt in prep for migration. Getting out anyway offers me the chance to connect with and appreciate the beauty of nature, birds or no.

Sunrise on Lake Erie

View from Kelleys Island State Park

Black Swallowtail

Butterfly enjoying a zinnia at my garden

European Robin

A recent conference offered the opportunity to meet new birds

Common Chaffinch

Probably the House Finch of Europe, still lovely

August Happenings

August is the middle of summer and many birds have started preparations to migrate. Adults are in the process of teaching “youngins” where and how to find and catch food. Some birds will molt before migration and will keep a low profile as their new plumage grows. Check out recent photos from around Ohio.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Kelleys Island

“Yummy mayfly for you, son”

Indigo Bunting; Meadowbrook Marsh

“Moooooom, don’t take another picture of me, my feathers are messed up!”

House Wren; Scioto Audubon Columbus

These perky, cheerful wrens have already stopped their singing and may have packed
their bags for southern U.S. or even Mexico

Little Blue Heron; Hilliard

A rare visitor to Ohio, this Little Blue Heron is a juvenile who may have decided to strike out
on its own from its parents to find more food…or just because its parents told it to stay put.

Wood Thrush Audio Recharge

Bird calls tell primitive areas of our brains there are no predators nearby. I always find Wood Thrush calls relaxing.

Wood Thrush
Click image to watch on TikTok

July Birds

The birds below can be found in July on the East Coast in states such as Ohio. Click on each bird to learn more about them.

Indigo Bunting
Migrant from Central America
Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings are featured in Lessons from a Birdbrain: Summer, Ohio and can also be found in Belize. They make wonderful photography subjects with their stunning color and often announce themselves throughout the summer calling from the tops of trees. I suggest you learn their call so you can look up when one is around and spot it.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
Does not like paparazzi
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

These little cuties are also migrants in the Northern and Eastern United States and as the name suggests, they spend a lot of their time darting around catching flying insects. They are not nearly as helpful as photography subjects as Great Egrets or Indigo Buntings though and tend to dart away just as the camera clicks. If you’re looking for a challenge though, they are relatively numerous on bike trails in the summer when gnats are plentiful.

Birdbrain Blog

Meet the Author

Lakewood Library hosted a virtual “meet the author” event to discuss my books about Ohio birds and how birding is a form of mindfulness, the state of being conscious and aware. Watch on YouTube

Laura McDermott Lakewood Library event

Spring Migration

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee

I’ve started hearing Eastern Towhees calling in the distance on recent metropark visits. Handsome, isn’t he! 

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

A sound of spring, a Song Sparrow singing from the treetops.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

My first Tree Swallow sighting was last weekend at a metropark where they were checking out nesting boxes…house hunting!

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebes are back and calling in the mornings! I have not seen one yet but hearing them regularly now.

Brown-headed Cowbirds

Brown-headed Cowbirds

One of the less popular spring migrants, Brown-headed Cowbirds are back and making lovely noises. Some people don’t respect them because they are nest stealers and leave their offspring to be raised by other birds(!).