ORNITHOUGHTS: AN INTRODUCTION
My name is Grayson Sasser, and I’m from Milton, FL. I’m fourteen years old and have loved birds since I was seven, when a big woodpecker flew past me one evening in our back yard. After some research, I concluded that it must have been the critically endangered Ivory-billed Woodpecker (an amateur mistake). The next day, we went out and got a photo of the bird on its tree – only to discover it was just a Pileated Woodpecker. But while reading about them and making my somewhat disappointing discovery, I began to discover what extraordinary birds they were.
I started observing the woodpeckers, who happened to be living in a pine snag just a few yards back in the woods behind our backyard. I also researched every scrap of information everywhere about them, including the “bird” article in our encyclopedia. This eventually led me to not only be obsessed with just woodpeckers, but birds as a whole.
I spent the next few months thinking about nothing other than birds: I drew what had to be hundreds of bird drawings, I wrote stories with birds as the characters, I read and re-read the World Book article on birds, I watched and identified every bird that visited the backyard…I practically breathed birds!
In the seven years since, I’ve extended my amateur knowledge of birding by reading other books on birds (The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds, The Bird Watcher’s Bible, and Woodpeckers of North America). I spent hours on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website, where I learned the sounds and behaviors of many different birds. More recently, I have been reading about John James Audubon (Audubon’s Journal of 1826 andAudubon: On the Wings of the World, a graphic novel).
I have maintained a steady passion for birdwatching throughout the years. Being homeschooled has allowed me to devote extra time outdoors year-round. I’m able to pursue my passion to a great extent because there is a 1000-acre forest behind our yard where I see a great deal more birds than anywhere else, especially since a large creek, many springs, and large areas of wetland pass through it—and birds naturally like being around water. And with the Wingspan binoculars I got on my most recent birthday, I have been able to take birdwatching to a whole new level.
In upcoming issues, I will be writing articles about birds and birding in the local area. Some may be about interesting bird subjects or species, and others will highlight nearby places to watch birds. I look forward to sharing these topics with you all!
By Grayson Sasser