I Was An Early Student of Wild Bird Behaviorby Sally Blanchard
I became very interested in wild birds when I was around 8 years old. I was one of those "why" kids who probably drove my parents crazy wanting to know the why about everything. My father did the painting of me with my beloved budgie, Micki and a white-throated sparrow on the other side of the window. I wouldn't say I was an actual bird watcher then but I paid attention to birds when they came into my view. One of my first memories of birds was trying to keep two baby blue jays from going in the street and I was kamikazed by the parents. I did get my Brownie Scout Bird Badge so I must have known something about them. My grandfather had given me a huge old volume about birds that he had when he was young and this encouraged my curiosity. I still have the book. My father was an Air Force Officer so we moved around a lot which gave me the opportunity to see birds from all over. As a young child, we lived in Berkeley, CA near my aunt and uncle who were avid nature lovers and we often had picnics in the local parks in the hills, My aunt always pointed out the various birds to me. We often lived in areas where there were woods with lots of wildlife. Outside Philadelphia, we lived on what was the grounds of the Whitemarsh Mansion (also called the Stokesbury Estate) and one my my favorite pastimes was traipsing through the woods looking for birds and animals. Then we lived on an Air Force base in Montgomery, AL that was next to the Alabama River. It was just a short bicycle ride to see the birds that gathered on the river.
Then we moved to London and lived across from Hyde Park and I started to see a lot of birds I had never seen before in the park and on The Serpentine. My mother and also took a lot of one day tours around London to castles, churches, and palaces. I always took my binoculars along. After 3 years in London, we moved to the south shore of Long Island and the bays and beaches were not far away to see lots of different kinds of birds. After 4 years there we moved to Redlands, CA and lived across the street from an area that was very wild at the time called Smiley Heights. There were so many birds that visited and lived in our yard and we also say foxes and bobcats. This is where the owl came down and sat in my lap and I tell other stories of the birds there in these Wild Bird Pages.I got married to an Air Force officer and we moved to Vandenburg AFB and I got to bird watch on the California coast. Then to Tucson where I became a genuine bird watcher. I lived there for almost 5 years and loved the wild birds there. Who could live in Tucson and not become a bird watcher with all of the incredible and unique species that live in and around the nearby deserts and mountains? Once I got into it, I started a major bird book collection and studied birds intensely. This was also where I started doing my Rare Hardwood Inlay Bird Sculptures, which I did for a living for over 20 years. My knowledge of birds came in handy with my sculpture because I wanted people to know for sure what kind of bird I was sculpting. We moved to Wichita next. I thought it would be like the first 10 minutes of The Wizard of OZ. I was so wrong, the birdwatching in Wichita was also great because we were near a major flyway and got some eastern birds. some northern birds, some southern birds, and some western birds. I also started to take bird watching trips around the country and had an exhibit of my bird sculptures at the Fuertes Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.It was in Wichita that I met another wood sculptor who happened to have an aviary of double-yellow headed Amazons that he and his wife were starting to breed. Paco, my now 43-year-old Amazon hen was their first baby. As fascinated as I became with parrots, I never lost my love for and curiosity about wild birds and their behavior. Although I have a fairly extensive list of birds that I have seen, I have never really been a "lister" and always found their behaviors more fascinating than putting a check mark next to a bird's name. From the time I was a kid, I wanted to know WHY they do what they do. I took the Cornell Lab Home Study Course in Bird Biology (twice) and when we moved to Missouri, I took an ornithology course at Central State Missouri University taught by a Dr. Hawksley (really!). Eventually, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay area by myself and did a lot of bird watching there. I loved seeing so many ocean and shorebirds. My favorite was watching the rows of Brown Pelicans skimming the waves. Now I live in Colorado and love to go to the mountains to bird watch.
I have bird watched all over the continental United States, plus areas in Alaska, Canada, Costa Rica, The Bahamas, Mexico, and England. To anyone reading this who might be able to help me with a connection ... I would love to speak about parrots in Australia! I hope readers will enjoy some of the wild bird stories and information in this section and there will be more to come ...