After our anniversary weekend I drove Daisy to the train station and pondered my options. Go home to watch football? Do some much-needed apartment cleaning? Run some errands? No to all of those, of course, I went birding!

But instead of wandering through fields and forests I decided to find myself a spot to sit and let the birds come to me. Call me lazy, call me unmotivated, call me whatever you want; I just didn’t feel like moving. So I headed over to the birdiest spot in the Albany area of late, the Rensselear Tech Park.

I decided I would sit myself down next to the big brush pile that the groundskeeping crew had thoughtfully created. The spot had several advantages: the only mud puddle in the area, fields all around me that sounded alive with sparrows, and a nice comfortable pile of wood chips that conformed nicely to my butt.

I couldn’t miss the Blue Jays and American Crows flying overhead, the former screaming, the latter cawing. Also hard to miss were the ubiquitous Song and White-throated Sparrows that foraged all around me, staying in touch with their “chip” and “seet” notes. A bit more difficult to identify was this Chipping Sparrow, which had me convinced that it was something rare until I finally got a clear look.

Chipping Sparrow at the Tech Park

Easier to identify were the White-crowned Sparrows, which, although they managed to avoid my camera, did give me good looks as long as my binoculars were at my eyes. As easy to figure out were the pink-billed and boldly-eye-ringed Field Sparrows that foraged along the edge of the gravel maintenance road that led to the brush pile.

I was positioned perfectly to get pictures of birds coming to bathe in and drink from the aforementioned mud puddle. It took awhile for the birds to trust me enough to bathe, but eventually American Goldfinches started to investigate, getting closer and closer to both me and the puddle.

American Goldfinch at the Tech Park

But before the goldfinches made their move to the puddle, another watcher caught my eye, a Groundhog!

Groundhog at the Tech Park

He sat up there surveying his domain for about five minutes before he lumbered off into the undergrowth. Then I spotted a Downy Woodpecker and a White-breasted Nuthatch working up the same tree until the nuthatch almost ran into the woodpecker. Naturally, the woodpecker took umbrage and chased the clumsy nuthatch off what was clearly the woodpecker’s tree. When I looked back at the puddle I realized the American Goldfinches had went for the water.

American Goldfinches at puddle

Two took off quickly, but one stayed around for a leisurely drink.

mmm...mud puddle...mmm

The only other bird that would come to the puddle was a Song Sparrow. It bathed briefly, then perched out of sight to preen.

bathing Song Sparrow

it didn’t like the clicking of my camera

Eventually my butt got sore and I started to notice an alarming number of bugs crawling onto my pants so I figured it was time to go. I might not have seen a ton of species, or anything particularly rare, but I did strengthen my ability to identify some common sparrows, which will help when something rare does show up in a local patch. And I was outside, enjoying a beautiful autumn day, watching birds interact with each other, which is better than drinking beer and watching football on the boob-tube, though, to be honest, that is what I am doing as I write this post. The best of both worlds!

So go out and bird from your butt. It’s fun, you’ll see cool stuff, and it’s a good way to get ready for a Big Sit…you are doing a Big Sit aren’t you?

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.