Friday, June 09, 2006

hummingbird feeder : Beginners flock to Birding 101 to learn basics

Special to the Homer News

It’s like being left out at recess. Everyone is busy doing something: Spinning around on that thing that makes you dizzy, playing 4-square or pushing each other on the swing. And there you are. Watching everyone else have fun. For non-birders, the Shorebird Festival may bring back those memories of being on the outside. But, how can you join in, or get excited about, something you know nothing about?

If the grade school tour around Gull Island didn’t pique your interest in birds, this class might.

9 a.m., more than 30 people gather in the high school choir room for their first lesson. The rest of the birders are out —birding. Karla Hart, Juneau’s Watchable Wildlife Program Coordinator, is the instructor. She waits for people to file in and choose which blue plastic seat they want to spend the next two hours in. Then, it begins.

Hart introduces herself and explains why she is well-qualified to teach a class to people who have never learned how to bird. Reason: She says she isn’t a very good birder, and besides, she’s not a morning person.

After her cheerful introduction Hart asks her first question: How many people consider themselves a birder? No one raises their hand.

“It isn’t some secret society or club,” Hart reassures the class. “You can bird anywhere.”

No response.

So Hart begins to tell the class why birding really is fun. Or how it can be fun.

“Birding is a lifelong pursuit,” she says. “Birding is something you should never stop learning.”

“You can start at one or 60 or 70.” At that nearly the entire class laughs. Most of them fit the older description.

Hart continues to lure the class. It’s relatively inexpensive she says. All you need to get started is a field guide and a pair of binoculars.

She pulls a stack of field guides from a desk. Different people have different tastes in guides, she says. Sometimes drawings of birds are easier for beginners to identify than photographs. Also, it’s a good idea to start with a field guide that is specific to the area, she says. That helps to eliminate all the birds that aren’t. Which could save new birders some time, because there are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world. Hart tells the class that there are “bird chasers,” people who try to see all the species.

One more reason why birding is a good hobby. You can do it anywhere. On vacation or sitting at home watching your bird feeder. Just remember to get a guide specific to the area if you’re traveling.

Now it’s time to see what the class knows about identifying birds. Hart pulls out a stack of pictures and holds the first one up in the air and asks the class to say what it is.

“Puffin!” everyone calls out.

The puffin is followed by a hummingbird, cardinal, toucan, owl, duck, flamingo, ostrich and parrot.

There is a bit of confidence growing in the class. Those were easy.

“I thought you guys just said you weren’t birders,” Hart says with a grin.

There are sheepish laughs from the class.

As you learn the familiar birds really well, Hart tells the class, it will make you more observant and teach you what to look for when you don’t recognize a bird.

Hart begins to quiz the class on how they recognized the birds in the pictures she held up. The shape of the bird’s body, beak and feet are clues about where to look in a field guide. Hart explains that field guides are organized by the type of bird.

“For the Shorebird Festival you’re going to be wearing out the first quarter of your guide,” she says.

Now it’s time for the class to try out their field guides and bird identification skills. Hart reaches into a bag and begins to pull out small, stuffed birds. She suggests that people work in teams and swap guides if they need to. Almost 15 stuffed toys fly out into the class. When squeezed, they mimic the call of the bird they replicate. To make the identification easier, Hart also passes out a list. She promises that all of the stuffed birds are on the list. The class just has to write the number on the bird’s tag next to the name on the list. Simple.

The next half hour is spent flipping through field guides. The birds to be passed along the fastest are a bald eagle and robin. Others take more time, like the Smith’s longspur and hermit thrush.

As she collects the stuffed birds Hart warns the class that in real life they won’t be able to hold the bird and squeeze it to make it talk. When watching a bird that is new, Hart advises the class to not rush straight to their field guides. Spend time watching it, how it moves, what it eats and if it has any distinctive markings. She says that it is a common mistake of beginning birders to think they have discovered a new or rare bird.

As the hands on the clock near 11, Hart gives some final advice to the class.

“If you only go with the good birders, it’s easy to become a lazy birder.”

She says that beginning birders should go with people of their own level. That way they are challenged to figure out birds for themselves.

“Don’t expect to identify every bird that you see,” she adds.

“Make it easy and fun for yourself.”

A final note on birding etiquette — always put the binocular strap around your neck when borrowing a pair from another birder — and class is over.

No more feeling left out. No secret club. Just a field guide and a pair of binoculars. Bring on the birds.

hummingbird feeder : Summer guest already here

Published Tuesday, May 9, 2006 2:14:01 PM Central Time

Bob Anderson of Marenisco reported Monday, "I saw my first hummingbird (male) at 7:50 a.m. this morning and have seen one four more times this a.m., possibly a different or the same one."

Anderson put out the first feeder full of his homemade nectar on April 17. The earliest bird he has seen in his yard was May 2, 2005.

The Marenisco birder puts out 10 feeders that draw dozens of the tiny hummers to his yard. He charts his first sighting in the spring and last in the fall on a calendar.

Last summer, ornithologist Allen Chartier from lower Michigan came to Anderson's yard to band hummingbirds for two days. Data he recorded about 93 birds during that weekend is on the Web site

glass humming bird feeder: Hummingbird arrival

QUESTION - Just wanted to let you know that I've had my hummingbird feeder out since the first day of spring. On April 13, I saw the first hummingbird. Thanks for the wonderful service AYS provides to the community. T.T.B., Bedford.

ANSWER - Happy to hear the hummingbirds are back home in southern Indiana.

Long time no see

QUESTION - My husband and I would like to find some old friends we met while at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1975.

Their names are John and Jennie Shepard. They had two children Mia and Brett.

We have lived in Tennessee for about 23 years. The last time we saw the Shepards was about 20 years ago. A lot has happened since then, and we would really love to find them.

An Internet search referred them to Bedford and Orestes, Ind. However, I was unable to find a telephone number or address. Then someone from the Bedford Historical Society referred me to you. Can you help? Thanks. Faye, Crittenden, Tenn.

ANSWER - Although John and Jennie Shepard could not be found in the local directory, perhaps a reader can lend a hand.

How about it, readers, anyone recognize these Shepards? If so, please let me know. They have some old friends who would like to say hi.

Alternative healing

QUESTION - Where can I find a holistic healer locally? M.G., Bedford.

ANSWER - This AYS list consists of those who practice holistic healing, iridology and naturopath:

Jan Bolin, LPN, N.D., at Roots, Leaves and Berries, 1108 Fifth St., 275-5253; Violet Villano, 140 W. Jefferson St., Orleans, 865-4038; Bobby Nasir, Naturopath, 275-1055. Additionally, there is a list of holistic healers in the Bloomington directory.

Appliance doctor

QUESTION - Will you please add Keith Fowler Appliance to the AYS files? He does appliance service, repair and installation. For more information, call 278-9389 or 276-7279. Thanks. A.B., Bedford.

ANSWER - Sure will. Welcome, Fowler Appliance, to the files.

Desk set recall

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with New Focus Marketing Corp. of Boca Raton, Fla., announced a voluntary recall of about 6,000 computer desk and chair sets because the seat on the chair can break and fall through during use, causing an individual to fall and suffer injuries.

New Focus Marketing has received reports of two injuries involving chairs breaking. Injuries include a consumer who received bruises to the arm and shoulder and another consumer who suffered a minor back injury.

The recalled three piece set includes a desk, computer stand and chair. Model number NF913232 is located on the product's box. The recalled desk and chair sets were sold at Office Depot stores nationwide from June 2005 through August 2005 for about $80 for the set.

Consumers should stop using the chair immediately and contact Office Depot to receive a gift card for the full price of the desk set upon receipt of the chair.

Consumers can contact Office Depot at (800) 944-3340 between 9 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday or log on to the firm's Web site at

Write AYS at P.O. Box 849, Bedford, IN 47421; phone 277-7259 or (800) 782-4405, ext. 7259, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekdays; send e-mail to; or read AYS online at and visit the “At Your Service” page. Because of the volume of questions received, AYS cannot respond to every request, although every attempt will be made to do so.
By Barbie Jenkins,
Friday, April 21, 2006 2:33 PM CDT

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?