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Bird fun alights from White Pathway

Members who went on the bird-watching trip to Costa Rica confirm that when one person spots a species, everyone stops to view it. <i>Submitted photo</i>1 / 2
Jim Fitzpatrick, director emeritus of the Carpenter Nature Center, holds a Baltimore oriole at last year's event that's been banded and is soon to be released.2 / 2

Anyone not familiar with five-dozen species of birds along the White Pathway can see and learn much more during the third annual International Migratory Bird Day event held rain or shine by the St. Croix Valley Bird Club 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at City Hall, 222 Lewis St.

"It's basically celebrating the return of all our migratory birds from the south," explained SCVBC member Mary Roen about the worldwide occasion.

The day includes several opportunities to get to know birds with several learning stations for all ages. They include a crafty critters area where kids can enjoy some fun take-home projects. The harm-or-help station shows people about what is good and bad for birds.

For example, lawn chemicals, loose cats and lead shot or sinkers endanger birds, while small houses, native foods and preventing window strikes aid their survival.

The beaks-n-feet stop encourages guests to try doing things like a bird would -- picking up a sunflower with a tweezers-like beak or grabbing a mouse with big simulated talons. At the 'name that bird' station, experts help people learn identification tips and tricks.

Area experts guide hikes along the White Pathway that explore the species. They also engage in banding some birds, which helps humans track their migration. A mist net stops the birds, and they're released after banding.

Roen, along with SCVBC member Wendy Hill, say the club and event mission emphasizes conservation and that people need not be a "birder" to appreciate the May 4 activities and camaraderie.

Several people last year say they intended to "stop by" but ended up staying at the event for hours. Kids also have plenty of hands-on activities to do.

Hosting the event helps River Falls maintain its standing as a Bird City, a status reviewed and renewed annually.

New this year is a silent auction that includes such things as a good-quality scope for more close-up bird watching, a blue bird nesting box, a book and a bird-themed gift basket. Hill and Roen said more than a dozen sponsors offered a collective combination of bird-themed gifts to support and enhance the event.

Jordan Jones will bring his red-tailed hawk, Lira, to the event for a question and answer session, as well as a quick demonstration.

The bird club asks for people to "please leave pets at home" during the activities.

Birders fly south as birds fly north

Hill said about the birds that despite the weather, "They're here and they're hungry."

She and Roen say these birds spend winter in places all over the Americas, but they return home for the important breeding period that coincides with the "seasonal protein burst" common to cold-weather areas.

A group of 19 bird club members, including some family members, traveled to Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula for a conservation-themed bird-watching trip.

After local high school science/biology teacher Dan Hoffman gave the club a presentation about a trip he made, he ended up arranging another for all of them.

Roen and Hill went and said the group saw pretty and unusual birds down there, as well as many of the bird species seen around River Falls. They say the nine-day trip targeted a deeper mission of conservation and its related collaboration.

Hill said, "It's critical that the Americas are all on track with each other regarding conservation."

A DNR publication tells about another group of Wisconsinites who visited Peru for the same reasons. The leader of that group emphasized the importance of protecting habitat in both places since at least 55 bird species live in both places.

The article warns: "Without protection of migratory-bird winter habitat in Latin America, our Wisconsin woodlands and backyards will become increasingly silent in the spring and summer."

The birders explain how sometimes bird watchers might wait a long while to see the star. They ran into several other groups waiting to get a glimpse of the resplendent quetzal, and all were rewarded with a sighting.

"This quiet excitement happens," said Hill about that moment.

The local group also visited a native tribe and organic farms, including cocoa and shade-grown coffee. Both women rave about the farms' products.

Roen said, "It was really a cultural experience, too, besides birding."

The women say the group didn't do many touristy things but did have the adventure of bird watching in the rain forest, climbing mountains in a bus on a gravel road, and spending a few hours at the beach.

The SCVBC members clarify that the club is not-for-profit; each member paid for their own Costa Rica trip. Any extra money the club has goes toward bird-healthy projects such as the Scout who built a chimney-swift tower in River Falls and university students who installed wood-duck boxes.

The 71-member St. Croix Valley Bird Club enters its season of field activities now, such as bird-watching hikes and counts in certain areas.

The monthly gatherings in winter include an educational speaker but limited field activities. Roen and Hill say the programs are free and work toward the mission of education and conservation.

Learn more about the club at the May 4 event, online at Facebook/scvbc, or by contacting SCVBC chairman Jim Beix at 715-425-6981 or Mary Roen at