As a child without binoculars my encounters with birds were casual and fleeting. My earliest memories are of seeing American Robins on neighbor’s lawns. Other than that bird sightings seemed rare unless I was near the Bay where the gulls hung out. We used to feed them roasted chicken during picnics!
My first favorite bird was the California Quail. I only got to see it a few times though and I think all sightings were up in Tilden Park, Berkeley, California. I thought they were so cute with the feather sticking up from their heads and the way they ran around on the ground.
I remember going on field trips to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA. I think I saw my first California Condor (or was it just a Turkey Vulture) at the Lindsay. While it was an up close encounter I still await the day when I see one soaring through the sky. I have found memories of seeing birds up close at the Lindsay. I also got to hold a boa for the first time. What was really neat also was that the Lindsay had a program where you could take home an animal (rabbits, guinea pigs..) for a few days. This program gave families an opportunity to explore pet ownership before making a commitment to an animal.
So how did I begin birdwatching? Well, an unexpected gift came in the mail from my grandparents. They sent me a plastic bird feeder with suction cup mounts to attach to a window. I was really excited about seeing wild birds close up for the first time! I attached the feeder to my bedroom window and delighted in attracting song birds.
This first step toward birdwatching ended soon after as a jay (I thought it was a Blue Jay. Years later, I learned it was a Western Scrub Jay) repeatedly knocked it down spilling all of the seeds on the ground. After refilling the feeder a number of times I finally called it quits. I would not have another bird feeder for over twenty years. I went back to be a casual observer of birds for many years.