Bird watchers explore peak migration, invite community to fly alongFrom conducting bird surveys in the area to sharing news of a great sighting, the St. Croix Valley Bird Club has been spreading its wings from River Falls since 2009.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
From conducting bird surveys in the area to sharing news of a great sighting, the St. Croix Valley Bird Club has been spreading its wings from River Falls since 2009.
Many people of the 65-member club have worked to organize an event that gives the community a chance to get to know its birds -- both the residents and pass-through visitors.
Everyone is invited to the second annual local commemoration of International Migratory Bird Day, a rain-or-shine event, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 5, starting at City Hall, 222 Lewis St., and moving to the White Pathway.
Admission is free. So is the education -- the club requests that people please do not bring pets.
Bird watchers and club members Cathy Olyphant and Wendy Hill say the event includes activities and education for people of all ages.
People can visit one or all of six stations, each with a fun way to learn about birds. For example, one stop looks at migration from a bird’s perspective.
Kids can do crafts or get a bird-themed face painting from Zaney Janey. People can learn about conservation and common bird-related issues from a fisheries and wildlife biologist.
Visitors get a chance to visit the ‘beaks and feet’ station, where they learn how birds’ bodies have adapted to the available food sources.
A name-that-bird station includes a Bingo-like game with pictures and stuffed birds that make noise.
People can learn how to get the most out of their binoculars, too -- guests are encouraged to bring their own, but the club plans to have about a dozen pairs on hand.
The day also includes a hike with tips on how to recognize the signs of birding.
Hill said, “We’ll teach them some basics of what to look for and how to tell what kind of bird it is.”
She and Olyphant explain that the main things are color, size and shape -- from there people discern using song, location and other characteristics.
The day will also include a licensed bird-banding professional from the Carpenter Nature Center, who -- weather permitting -- will band some songbirds that day.
Olyphant and Hill explain that the bands help biologists and other bird buffs to gather information about migration that ultimately helps their feathered friends.
Olyphant and Hill say since its founding, the club has nearly doubled in size. A seven-person board runs it, and a membership costs $10/year.
Olyphant said, “We have a program season,” explaining that those usually include an educational speaker July-April, with December off.
She and Hill agree that May and June are major, active birding months as the winged creatures migrate and nest. Enthusiasts go hiking and do surveys during the active time.
“That’s why spring is really popular to us,” said Hill.
They say the St. Croix Valley is good bird-viewing territory since it lies along the Mississippi River ‘flyway.’ Olyphant calls the White Pathway a “little jewel” and says her first walk of it revealed 53 different bird species.
She and Hill say the club includes members from River Falls, Hudson and other local cities, and a few come from St. Paul and Stillwater.
The spokeswomen say the club conducts surveys for entities and agencies that need them, for example the local Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, county staff focused on wetland management and those interested in prairie restoration projects.
Olyphant and Hill say they don’t get paid for the surveys, but the information they gather can help secure conservation and related grants.
Hill said the club has taken some field trips -- one to see the tundra swan migration in the Alma area.
Another adventure led members to a Nebraska sanctuary where the “awesome” sights included 400,000 sandhill cranes on the Platte River.
The SCVBC also worked with city staff to help River Falls achieve the status of Bird City, “We were one of the first ones,” Olyphant said about Wisconsin cities.
Asked how they came to like bird watching, Cathy says her mom was a ‘top birder’ in Minnesota. She banded some 84,000 songbirds plus kept a birdie hospital in the basement of their family home.
Hill says she learned a lot from spending time outdoors with her dad. She thinks the joys of bird watching come naturally to her. She’d been out of it for a while but started again after the club formed and enjoys being with people who get tickled about the same bird things she does.
Both women laugh as they compare notes about who has the most bird feeders in their yard -- one has 17, the other nine.
They agree that the upcoming IMBD event, as well as the bird club itself, offers something for everyone: “You could have zero knowledge and they’d love to see you there.”
For more information about the May 5 event, contact Olyphant at 715-778-5567; for more information about the local bird club, call Jim Beix at 715-425-6981.
Editor’s note:Bird fans in the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area want other watchers to know of an upcoming event in the that region. Click the link to learn more: