Over a month had gone by since the birth of my first child. When you don’t know anything about babies, the initial 30 days are a crash course in hormones and learning how to take care of a newborn – feeding, diapering, and so much more. I barely had time to shower, let alone take up my favorite pastimes.
But time marches on, and by the 5th week I felt like I had my legs under me again. Daily walks with my kid in the baby jogger helped me build up endurance and lulled him to sleep, so one sunny afternoon I brought along my binoculars for my first experience birding with a baby.
I chose an easy location: a park at the end of a lake, an easy 1.5 miles from my house. During a North Florida winter the lake isn’t much to look at – mostly dry with brown tufts of grasses and dead lily pads. Surrounded by homes and at the edge of a busy road, it isn’t exactly a rural or quiet location.
And yet, birds flock to the abundant food sources here. I sat on the grassy edge of the lake, moving my binocs from a handful of feeding Snowy Egrets to a lone Limpkin, then forward to a pair of foraging Killdeer. Canada Geese honked in the distance, while Turkey Vultures swirled overhead. When I made a second pass with my binos, I spotted a Tricolored Heron, almost completely camouflaged against the reeds.
Just as I settled in to watch a preening Anhinga, I heard it: the tell-tale coos and grunts that meant my baby was fussy. Do you know what comes after fussiness? Crying. Louder crying than you think would be possible from such a tiny pair of lungs. Sure enough, barely 10 minutes into the first birding I had done in nearly two months, my son began to wail. Time to head back to the house!
Sure, it wasn’t the longest or best birding experience I had ever had, but I proved to myself I could go birding with my baby. As he gets older, we can become more ambitious with our avian destinations. And for now, I’m happy to keep returning to the edge of the lake!