Birder's-Eye View
Charlotte Magazine|March 2021
When the pandemic struck, thousands discovered the physical, mental, and ecological benefits of birding. Spring migration is the perfect time to join the flock
ALLISON BRADEN

THIS TIME LAST YEAR, people around the world noticed neighbors they never knew they had. As the coronavirus ground our normal lives to a halt, robins busied themselves laying bright blue eggs, and rose-breasted grosbeaks decked themselves in red and black to attract mates. Sales of binoculars and birdfeeders spiked, and new birdwatchers discovered that the birds on the periphery of our lives have a complex community of their own—plus the sense of emotional and physical well-being that comes from getting outside and focusing outward. “Hope,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “is the thing with feathers.”

This spring, flowers may bloom brighter, saturated with our relief as the pandemic winds down, but the joy of getting to know our wild neighbors will outlast quarantine. It’s never been easier to learn about local bird life, and birding can prove surprisingly fun and rewarding. (It has all the thrill and suspense of hunting—with less mess.) And the benefits go both ways. Close attention to birds and their habitats is a step toward healing the damage we’ve done to their populations, even as we heal from the damage we’ve done to ours.

The mid-December sun glints off a frosty field as I pull into the parking lot at McAlpine Creek Park. A small group clusters around a pair of cars adorned with bird bumper stickers. They’re bundled against the cold and masked to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but when they all lift their binoculars to look at a hawk perched on a distant pole, I know I’m in the right place.

The Mecklenburg Audubon Society offers bird walks in the Charlotte region year-round. Today, Judy Walker, the MAS newsletter moderator and a retired UNC Charlotte education librarian, will lead our group of nine on a stroll in search of species that have migrated here for the winter, like fox sparrows. One member of our group is new to the area, and he’s especially eager to spot a winter wren, a tiny bird with a big voice.

Walker has led bird walks for about 20 years, and she’s been birding for 20 years longer than that. She’s seen nearly every feathered species there is around here, but her enthusiasm hasn’t waned. “I get excited about things,” she says, “but it’s getting other people excited.” Her favorite way to capture a beginner’s interest is to spot a new-to-them bird or what she calls a “wow” bird. We set off from the parking lot at a birder’s typically glacial pace, pausing often to listen for chirps and peer at the leafless treetops.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM CHARLOTTE MAGAZINEView All

Head First

Guyana native Akash Prasad conceived a crown-inspired jewelry line in his adopted hometown

2 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

MORE SIZZLE IN SOUTHPARK

Steak 48 is worth the buzz—and the splurge

2 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

FRESH PICKS

Plan a Charlotte dining day with stops at these recently opened restaurants from our 2021 list of the city’s best (and enjoy a few treats in between)

2 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

KOUNTER HONORS THE FRIENDSHIP NINE

Chef Rob Masone brings something new to Rock Hill’s culinary scene—without losing sight of the past

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

FORM AND SUBSTANCE

Three-dimensional public art is forging a new landscape

2 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

Plaza Midwood's Fertile Storefront

Not one but two Fortune 500 companies took root at nondescript 1508-1510 Central Ave.

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

Birder's-Eye View

When the pandemic struck, thousands discovered the physical, mental, and ecological benefits of birding. Spring migration is the perfect time to join the flock

6 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

The Case for Charlotte Music, Post-COVID

Just as Charlotte began to lay a foundation for something it’s notoriously lacked over the years—the ability to sustain a vibrant, distinctive local music scene—the pandemic snatched it away, as it did so much else. Was it a lethal blow? This magazine’s longtime editor, now a driver of a local music initiative, grabs the mic to argue: Hell, no

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

BUNNY GREGORY

Art changed Bunny Gregory’s life. She hopes it can change her community, too

5 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021

Bem-vindo!

The stretch of Monroe Road where you can find little pieces of Brazil

1 min read
Charlotte Magazine
March 2021
RELATED STORIES

BUFFY & HER PUPPY!

The Akita to Happiness Los Angeles, April 21

1 min read
Star
May 17, 2021

Belinda Carlisle on the Best (and Worst) of The Go-Go's

IN 1982, the Go-Go’s became the first and only (yes, still) all-women band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to have a No. 1 album on the Billboard charts with 1981’s Beauty and the Beat.

4 mins read
New York magazine
March 29 - April 11, 2021

Golden Present

Memories of Gold Dollars for the Holidays

9 mins read
COINage Magazine
December 2020 - January 2021

Great Expectations

Look to new luxury properties opening soon for your 2021 travel inspiration.

5 mins read
Global Traveler
Class Act 2020

Was Charlotte Dod the Greatest Athlete Ever?

The remarkable career of a Victorian athletic phenom—and the legacy that wasn’t

9 mins read
The Atlantic
October 2020

NORDSTROM'S BEAUTY DISCOUNTS ARE NEXT-LEVEL—THESE PRODUCTS WILL SELL OUT FIRST

You know that thing that happens when a dog sees a squirrel? Perked ears; alert, practically rabid eyes; stiffened, statue-still stance?

2 mins read
MODEL WORLD MAGAZINE
September 2020

THE FIRST AMERICAN “SPORT HORSE” BREED

The very name of the American Standardbred reflects the performance requirement established at the inception of the breed. Here’s how genetics, conformation and training came together to create horses that could trot a mile in 2:30 or less, or pace it in 2:00 flat.

8 mins read
Equus
Autumn 2020

In the Groove

Charlotte hums with urban amenities and outdoor beauty.

5 mins read
Global Traveler
July/August 2020

AIM HIGH

A Single Cab, Twin-Turbo Skyscraper!

3 mins read
Street Trucks
August 2020

DARLING ON THE RISE with Sofia Tilbury

We have been fans of Charlotte Tilbury for a number of years as we love her approach to creating inclusive products, ensuring that these items truly work as well as including innovations within her assortment of makeup and skincare.

6 mins read
Athleisure Mag
June 2020