Bird watching is a wonderful diversion from the tragedy and tumult in our country and throughout the world. If you are not a birder, start now.

You may think that identifying birds is too tough. Well, it isn’t. Just watching the birds is fun, even when you don’t know what they are. Linda and I have a rule that if we both agree on the bird’s species, then that is what it is. Makes birding a whole lot easier.

I found Deirdre Fleming’s recent news story published in this newspaper to be inspiring (“Maine Young Birders Club draws passionate naturalists,” Oct. 1). Teachers Lena Moser and Nathan Hall have organized Maine Young Birders Club in Biddeford. Twenty states have clubs for young birders, some with more than one, but this is the first in Maine.

One of those young birders told Fleming that she fell in love with birds at age 3. Made me pleased that we recently gave our 3-year-old granddaughter binoculars and introduced her to the birds in her Massachusetts yard.

Fleming’s story reminded me of the birding unit that Linda always taught to her first-graders in Mount Vernon. At the end of that class, the kids all came to our house, were handed binoculars, and walked around our land and neighborhood, seeing and identifying birds. Each adult, including me, would lead two kids, and boy was that ever fun. One of those kids later began helping at a birding outing each year at our library.

Linda and I started birding 12 years ago when we spotted a friend and neighbor, Dona Seegars, in our front yard with binoculars. Once I saw a Blackburnian warbler, I was hooked. Warblers are still my favorite species, and it turns out our land is perfect habitat for warblers — we’ve seen 17 different warbler species there.

I wish we’d started birding a long time ago, because it adds so much to our outdoor and travel adventures. We’ve birded in Italy, Costa Rica, and often in Texas and Arizona. If you read our travel columns, you’ve read about some of those adventures.

One very early morning in Italy, Linda woke me up to see a bird in our yard, the Hoophoe. And yes, it was worth getting up to see. The next morning, there were six Hoophoes in our yard.

Last spring, on our trip to southeast Arizona, Linda gave our birding guide, Melody, a list of nine birds we hoped to see. Melody drove us up Mount Lemon, in Tucson, stopping here and there to see birds. We saw eight of our nine species, with just the red-faced warbler to go.

Melody turned left near the top of the mountain, drove up a dirt road, and when we exited the vehicle, there were red-faced warblers all around us. We didn’t even need binoculars. And they are stunning.

The year before, birding with Melody, we saw 38 species that were new to us. Amazing. Southeast Arizona is a birding paradise, and we hope to return there next year.

But you don’t have to leave Maine to see lots of different birds. In fact, many tourists come to Maine to see birds. At our camp in the north woods, we see spruce grouse, boreal chickadees, black-backed and three-toed woodpeckers, and other birds that can only be found in northern forests.

One of our first birding adventures was an Aububon spring day trip to Monhegan, where the migrating warblers were so tired they were sitting on the ground. Amazing! We now get out to Monhegan every year, usually in early May and sometimes in the fall.

And we rent a house near the south Lubec sandbar in late August, the best place in Maine to see migrating shorebirds according to Bob Duchesne, the author of “Maine Birding Trail.” That book is essential if you are an avid birder, as is a new book, “Birdwatching in Maine,” edited by Derek Lovitch and containing site guides by birding experts including Herb Wilson, who writes a birding column for this newspaper, and Ron Joseph, a retired wildlife biologist.

For the last three years, we’ve spent a weekend in May at Claybrook Mountain Lodge in North New Portland, where Greg and Pat Drummond offer two wonderful birding weekends every year. Ron Joseph and Greg Drummond are our guides. This year we identified 100 species of birds that weekend.

So, please go out today, with binoculars, and have some fun.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at

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