Section: Features

Hawks, eagles and nuthatches: birding club finds its roost

Judith Crouse’s favorite bird to spot in Ohio is the Cooper’s hawk: a large, predatory bird with bluish feathers, a straight posture and bright red eyes. Crouse is the leader of Knox County’s monthly birding group, which met for the first time of the year last Saturday morning. She was one of the many birders that assembled at the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) on Saturday to spend time with fellow bird-watchers of the area.

“I started the monthly birding group because I wanted to meet other birders. There wasn’t a bird-watching community in the area,” she said. “The idea arose after I spoke to [BFEC Manager] Noelle Jordan about it, and she helped organize the group.”

For their first meeting, the group had planned to go on a birding walk. However, because of the cold and snowy weather, the group instead stayed inside the Resource Center of the BFEC and exchanged birding tips and tricks. Over nut brownies, they discussed everything from binoculars to bird books to their favorite watching spots in the Knox County area. Some even shared their private “life lists,” a sort of birding diary that some birders keep to record when and where they spot a specific species.

Some treat bird-watching as a hobby, while others treat it like a profession. Jon Minard, one of the more experienced members of the group, is a bald eagle expert. A retired postal carrier, Minard has been bird-watching bald eagles for over 20 years. He keeps a detailed account of all the eagle nests in the Knox County area and assists in preserving the species. He even reports his findings to the United States Fish and Wildlife Agency (FWS). Minard and his wife Debby Hurlbert spent last Christmas in Costa Rica, where they photographed over 345 different species of birds in only nine days. According to Hurlbert, their lawn is a certified backyard habitat, a certication given by the National Wildlife Federation to privately owned land that offers food, water or shelter to beneficial animals and insects.

There are others who consider themselves novices. Miriam Dean-Otting ’74, Donald L. Rogan professor of religious studies at Kenyon, only began birding last summer. Nevertheless, she finds it an immensely rewarding activity that she says everyone should try at least once.

“There are tons of benefits to birding,” Dean-Otting said. “You get out in nature and you get to notice details. You get to stop and listen to the world … You start noticing how some birds are funny, while other birds are more business-like in their movements. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

The birding group will meet again at the BFEC Resource Center on Feb. 23 at 11 a.m. Crouse hopes that the weather will be warmer, so that the group can go on a walk and spot the cardinals, nuthatches and eagles in action. She invites all Kenyon students to join.

As the group was getting ready to leave, a blue jay fluttered its way down to the BFEC seed-feeder. “Look at her,” said Crouse. “She’s beautiful.”

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