Jack Padley, of New Hudson, started photographing birds in 2018 when he retired from C & G Newspapers.

Jack Padley, of New Hudson, started photographing birds in 2018 when he retired from C & G Newspapers.

Photo provided by Jack Padley

Bird-watching teaches patience, offers relaxation

By: Alyssa Ochss | Metro | Published May 8, 2024


METRO DETROIT — Bird-watching takes patience and precision, but it pays off in the end for those looking to learn more about the magnificent creatures that fly and capture the perfect shot.

Rosann Kovalcik, a bird-watcher and birding expert from Grosse Pointe Woods, said a high school biology teacher at Lake Shore High School started a bird-watching club. A member of that club lived down the street from her and they enjoyed the hobby together. She was 16 years old at the time and now she is going to be 70.

One of the things she loves most about birding is the diversity she sees in the birds she encounters.

“Not only different species but within the species you can see how there’s the differences between how males and females act and the different habitats that they favor based upon what their food sources are and their nesting habits,” Kovalcik said. “So yeah, I really love the diversity of it.”

She also loves how she can enjoy the hobby anywhere she goes.

“You can be anyplace in the world and there’s going to be birds there to watch, pretty much,” Kovalcik said.

Kovalcik has seen around 4,000 birds over her years of bird-watching. Though most of the time she watches birds in her backyard, Kovalcik also leads bird walks at the Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, and she visits her cottage near the Sleeping Bear Dunes as well.

Kovalcik said she recommends others get involved in bird-watching.

“It’s known to lower your blood pressure, calm you down, put you in touch with the important elements of the out of doors that just make you (a) more peaceful and calm person,” Kovalcik said.

She added that bird-watching also keeps a person sharp.

“As we age and we want to do something that keeps our brains fired, it’s a good one,” Kovalcik said. “You know you get your binoculars out, you’re looking at something, what is this, what clues am I looking for. It’s like a great game.”

Kovalcik said she saw the popularity of bird-watching increase during the COVID-19 pandemic and most of the people who got into it stayed with the hobby.

“Many people took up birding and being out of doors, so it happened both at homes and on the trails,” Kovalcik said. “It’s hugely popular now. There’s many Facebook pages that are devoted to it. It’s definitely seen a big uptick.”

Jack Padley, a bird-watcher and photographer from New Hudson, said he tries to photograph as many birds as he can in a year.

“And then my sister and I look at the photos and the ones that I don’t know what they are, she’s always there to tell me what they are,” Padley said. “I just love being able to go out into nature and walking around and finding birds.”

Padley has filmed and photographed different birds in their natural habitats such as woodpeckers pecking at trees and herons when they’re fishing. He also said he has seen birds when they are born in the spring and has watched them grow up over the course of the season.
“So I’m more into the photography bit of it than actually knowing what each bird is,” Padley said.

Padley started photographing birds in 2018 when he retired from C & G Newspapers. He uses his cellphone to take photos which he says takes quality pictures.

“My sister kind of got me into it and I started going out and, you know, taking photos while I was walking around in Kensington Metropark and other places,” Padley said.

Padley was able to keep up his bird-watching hobby during the pandemic since it was out in nature. He said there weren't many people around and he didn’t have to wear his mask. His favorite place to go bird-watching is Kensington Metropark.

“The other parks are good places too, but Kensington is my favorite,” Padley said. “They have nature trails. They have one that’s called Wildwings and there are plenty of birds out there. And the birds are so used to the humans that they’ll land on your hands and eat bird seed right out of your hands and stuff.”

Padley added the birds will chirp at bird-watchers to feed them. He takes his grandchildren out to the park, and they get a thrill waiting for birds to jump on their hands.

So far, Padley has taken pictures of around 40 species of birds. The bird he would love to take pictures of are wood ducks, but he says he would need a better lens.

“That would be great, I’d love to see their nest up there and baby wood ducks,” Padley said.

Padley said he loves that the hobby teaches him to be patient and that it’s very relaxing. He recommends others get involved in the hobby.
“Our days are, especially when you, are so hustle-bustle that you’re always busy or you’re paying too much attention to your phone or watching too much TV,” Padley said. “And this actually gets you out walking in nature and just seeing the beauty that God created in all these creatures.”

Kovalcik warns people to not disturb bird nests while birding and to respect their dwellings. She also said not to disturb roosting birds such as owls.

“During the daytime, when owls are roosting, because obviously they’re awake at night, in the daytime is when they’re roosting or sleeping,” Kovalcik said. “You don’t want to approach too closely to disturb them because then their sleep cycle is disturbed. It uses up energy that they wouldn’t need to have used up. And if you flush them on accident, smaller owls can actually get eaten by a larger predator.”

Kovalcik said it’s a good idea for those just getting into bird watching to join field trips through local groups. Macomb Audubon Society, Oakland Audubon Society and the Detroit Bird Alliance offer field trips. She also welcomes beginners at her bird walks at the Ford House.

“It is a good place to get going and to have people explain them to you,” Kovalcik said. 

She also recommends folks hang up feeders and watch birds in their yards. Kovalcik personally has seen around 139 species in her yard.

The website for the Oakland Audubon Society is oaklandbirdalliance.org. The website for the Macomb Audubon Society is macombaudubon.net. The website for the Detroit Bird Alliance is detroitbirdalliance.org. The website for the Ford House to find the bird walks is fordhouse.org.