Guest post by Celia Garland: Artist, Naturalist, Glassblower, Educator & Enthusiast, Wildlife Expert, and Global Gallivanter
** Note from Debbi: I’ll be featuring guest posts from incredibly talented women in the travel industry who will be sharing some of their stories and passions. My aim is to inspire and empower YOU to follow their lead and also do what you truly love.
This first guest post is from one of my best friends, Celia Garland, who happens to also be one of the most knowledgeable and ambitious young women of our generation. Enjoy! **
If you like spending time outside, it’s entirely possible that there is someone in your friend group that loves looking for, spotting, and taking photos of birds.
Or is that person in your group actually you? There is something undeniably fabulous about our feathered friends! Personally, I think that everyone should be a birder.
If anyone tells you that they don’t really like birds, ask them what they think about dinosaurs. We often think of dinosaurs as massive scaly reptiles. While some of them were, our birds are descended from the dino family of meat-eating Therapods. The oldest fossil record of a bird is 150 million years old, but its bird-like features (such as feathers) predate that.
Once all the evolutionary factors were in place, birds took off (pun fully intended), and now there are somewhere between 9,000 – 10,000 species worldwide.
While growing up, my Uncle Bill was the quintessential avid bird watcher. He’d be weighing field guides at the trail head, and all along the trail, he’d be listening to the incessant chattering of various birds up ahead. Every so often, he would stop dead in the middle of the trail and point in the direction of a certain chirp or trill, identifying the bird that was making it by its sound alone. This sudden action was sometimes followed by him crashing off the trail into the woods, determined to catch a glimpse of the songstress.
It goes without saying that if you intend to bird while you hike, you will not be setting any records for speed.
I liked birds well enough growing up: the call of loons out on the lake, majestic bald eagles, and the common (yet thrilling) Red-Tailed Hawk. My dad admitted recently that many of the hawks I spotted as a child were actually turkey vultures and that he hadn’t had the heart to tell me.
My true love of birds came later. At 16, I wanted to volunteer with sea turtles, but you had to be 18 to scoop turtle poop. Instead, it was recommended that I work at a partner facility for sea birds. This was more exciting than I ever could have imagined, and I’ve been a full-blown “bird nerd” ever since.
Once people hear that you’re enthusiastic about something, they’ll inevitably ask, “What’s your favorite?!” While I don’t have a favorite per se, I can list out my top five.
My Top Five Birds (in no particular order)
Puffins have so much character! They look a bit like a penguin and a toucan fell in love. There are three types of puffins: the Atlantic Puffin, Tufted Puffin, and Horned Puffin (the last two are in the Pacific). They are all much smaller than you might expect, about the average size of a football. While they waddle awkwardly on land and look like they shouldn’t be able to fly, beneath the waves is where they soar.
2. Lilac Breasted Roller
I can’t believe I didn’t know that these beautiful birds existed until last year! In shocking jewel tones, they flash above the grasslands of Africa in fantastic contrast. Between feeding flights, they perch themselves somewhere with a view, surveying the far less colorful landscapes beneath them.
3. Common Loon
There is nothing common about this bird. Unlike most birds, they have solid bones to make them heavy to dive. Living in freshwater lakes to raise their chicks, they return to the ocean when the ice comes in. Their impressive black and white patterning is second only to their ethereal, magical call.
Wandering Albatross are the largest living birds in the world with a wingspan that stretches three meters. As the ultimate flyers, albatross cover the oceans in their migrations and may not return to solid land for a year or two at a time!
5. King Penguins
As regal as their name suggests, King Penguins are the second largest of all the different types. Through courtship, they create the strong bonds required to raise a chick together. They’re truly a balancing act in many areas of life: they balance eggs on their feet, as well as their lives in the sea and onshore.
Now, I travel the world as an environmental educator, talking to thousands of people about my passions and hoping to educate them as much as possible. My “Birds of the Sea” talk is my favorite by far, where I talk about puffins in iceland, Bald Eagles, and penguins of Antarctica.
As I continue to travel, I add all the new species I see to a master list, hoping to convert as many people as I can into orna-enthusiasts. I may never get to 10,000, but I sure as heck will try!
No matter where you go in the world, there will be birds. You need nothing to enjoy them, just a sense of curiosity and energy. All colors, shapes, and sizes- there’s something for everyone!
The next time you’re hiking, slowly try to check out our avian friends, but don’t get ruffled if you don’t see any new species. After all, we’re all birds of a feather.
Follow Celia on her adventures around the world on her website, Instagram and Facebook page. She is currently painting a bird a day, so be sure to follow her on social media for more birding delights! Read more about her experience as the sole artist in residence at Denali National Park here.
**All photos property and courtesy of © Celia Garland**
For fellow bird nerds, the best (free) birdwatching app is Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab (recommended by Celia herself).
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