If you love the outdoors there are probably some activities you enjoy more than others. Maybe it's trout fishing, hiking or deer hunting. My passion is birds. I love the spring migration. New species return almost daily.
I especially enjoy seeing species I've never seen before. Adding birds to my "life list" is a competition with myself. Last year I added mourning warbler to the list; this year my goal is Connecticut warbler.
But what I love most is finding active bird nests, especially those in nest boxes that I have built and put up. When I check nest boxes for the first time each year, I almost get giddy with anticipation. As a little boy, it was the feeling I got as I waited for my dad to take us to our favorite spring-fed swimming hole on a hot summer day.
It's difficult to describe, but it's similar to the excitement anglers feel on opening day of trout season or deer hunters feel on the first day of buck season. And amazingly, the feeling is just as intense today as it was when I put up my first nest box in 1981.
A few weeks ago when I checked my boxes, I approached each one slowly and quietly, just in case a female was on the nest. The first three boxes I checked contained freshly built bluebird nests, each with five eggs. The cup on the nest in the fourth box contained a dull blue form. The female was determined to not be disturbed. So I closed the box and walked away.
In other boxes I found Carolina chickadee and tufted titmouse nests. Each contained six eggs, which the female had covered with a layer of nesting material to hide the eggs from more dangerous visitors.
Over the coming weeks I'll checks these nests two or three times a week to monitor each nest's progress. I'll watch naked, helpless hatchlings transform into adult-sized fledglings in fewer than 21 days. And I will know that if I had not put up the boxes, these birds might not have nested. I made a difference, and that's worth getting excited about.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling), and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com, and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.