EDMOND — A shout went up from the north parking lot at J.L. Mitch Park, even before the birding enthusiasts had begun their walk.
“There’s one — over there!”
A bird — one of the more than 200 varieties that have been identified inside the 280-acre northwest Edmond park — had been spotted low in the trees, and members of the group reached for their binoculars.
Susy Hall, of Edmond, is a member of the group that walks every day along the trail through the park at 1501 W Covell Road. She said birders aren’t too particular about the birds they encounter on their excursions.
“We’re here to see what we see,” she said. She and her husband, Jeff, walk about a mile a day, while others in the group walk longer distances. Not only is cold weather not an impediment, but birding seems to be better when it’s cold. Windy days are good because birds stay low in the trees.
Birding is generally best in the early morning, she said. When they wake up, “they’re hungry and are looking for food.” Later in the day they’re resting in the treetops and are harder to see.
“This is our exercise,” she explained as the group started out. “We don’t realize we’re exercising because we’re having so much fun. It’s free, and it’s close to our house.”
Hall said Mitch Park is an excellent place to see birds because of its lush habitat. Birders generally don’t trespass, she said, “so it’s great to be able to come here.”
Hall said her interest in birds started when she took a college ornithology class and increased about 10 years ago as she sought a hobby when her youngest son approached high school graduation.
She has led several walks through Mitch Park to help others spot birds, and in 2009 put together a field guide of birds that can be seen in the park.
The guide is available at the Edmond Library and includes a checklist of common to extremely rare birds that can be encountered in Mitch Park.
Jeff Hall said his wife has identified more than 200 birds in the park.
“There are 26 winter species in Mitch Park and 27 that are pretty much here year-round,” Susy Hall said. “Then it goes up to 31 in summer.”
Birding, she said, is the best hobby she can imagine.
“It gets you outside, gets you exercise. Every day is different, every walk is different. Sometimes you get a treat — a bird or behavior you haven’t seen before.”
The Halls offer advice to anyone thinking about getting a start in bird-watching: Start at home. Set up a bird feeder and possibly a birdbath in your backyard.
“The best place to start is a place where you can constantly see birds — your backyard,” she said. “They are there day after day, year after year.”
The Halls consider themselves birders, as opposed to bird-watchers who perhaps are more casual about the endeavor.
“There are zillions of bird-watchers,” Suzy Hall said, “but fewer birders.”
Joe LaFleur, producer of the DVD “Better Birdwatching in the Southwest,” lists these birds as common to the Oklahoma City metro:
•Winter: Dark-eyed junco and white-crowned sparrow, often seen at yard feeders; cedar wax-wings, often seen at birdbaths; green-winged teal, hawks and eagles, found at lakes and rivers.
•Year-round: Yard feeder birds such as northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, American goldfinch, mourning dove, red-winged blackbird, northern mockingbird and also great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl.
•Spring and fall migrants: Wilson’s warbler, and shorebirds such as greater yellowlegs.
•Summer: Indigo bunting, often seen at feeders.
Wild Birds Unlimited lists these birds as common to Oklahoma: Northern cardinal, black-capped chickadee, red-tailed hawk, osprey, peregrine falcon, American robin, black phoebe, blue jay, mourning dove, northern mockingbird, Baltimore oriole, western scrub-jay, cedar waxwing, American goldfinch, Eastern bluebird, American crow.
Note: Oklahoma’s official state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, is seen in the summer, and migrates to Mexico and Central America in winter
Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Guide
For more information about “Better Birdwatching in the Southwest,” go to www.betterbirdwatching.com.
Wild Birds Unlimited
For more information about birdwatching or related products, go to http://oklahomacity.wbu.com or http://norman.wbu.com.