Neil Bass, natural resources specialist, uses binoculars to scan trees for birds Feb. 10 by Hunt Lodge. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Tips offered for beginning birders

Charlotte Richter/Staff Writer

Fort Leavenworth is home to a variety of birds, from waterfowl to birds of prey, for birders to enjoy each season.

Brandon Voorhees scans the tree tops and air for movement while out birding with his father, retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees, and Natural Resources Specialist Neil Bass Feb. 10 by Hunt Lodge. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Birding is the activity of seeking and identifying birds in their natural habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates more than 46 million Americans consider themselves bird watchers or birders.

Retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees said Fort Leavenworth is a good birding destination because its location within the central flyway hosts a steady high-interest bird population and is in the path of the migration twice a year.

Voorhees is a Leavenworth native with more than 10 years of birding experience who said he enjoys birding excursions in his free time. He said birders call the first bird that interested them in the hobby a “spark bird,” and serious hobbyists have “life lists,” or a list of birds they have encountered with details of the event.

“Part of it is reconnecting with nature,” Voorhees said. “At the end of the day, when you’ve got an hour of daylight left, you can come out to the woods; it’s quiet, nobody there usually. You just walk and listen and it’s a completely different world. It’s really relaxing, and I think that appeals to a lot of people.”

Tools for Birding

Neil Bass, Directorate of Public Works natural resources specialist, said the birding hobby is accessible and has a low cost of entry for those interested in starting with basic gear. Voorhees and Bass agree beginners do not need advanced equipment to begin birding, just binoculars.

Retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees points out a redheaded woodpecker while birding Feb. 10 by Hunt Lodge. Voorhees and his son, Brandon Voorhees, also identified a pileated woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, black-capped chickadee, dark-eyed junco and bald eagle while on their outing. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Voorhees also suggests new birders research bird species, bird calls and characteristics. “You should learn as much as you can because birding

is enhanced by your knowledge, Voorhees said. “Nowadays, we have so much help on the internet and your phone, it’s a lot easier than when I started.”

Black-capped chickadee photographed by retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees Feb. 9 by Hunt Lodge.

Voorhees said some bird species are easy to identify, but for others, birders may have to rely on field marks, or characteristics specific to each bird species that make identification easier.

Birders can also use apps such as Merlin or Ebird to learn about bird species and record calls for real-time mobile identification. Merlin is primarily for listening to birds and EBird can be used to log birds during an encounter. “(The app is) a citizen science effort. Birders can report what they see along with when and where. So, if a scientist doing research wants to know how many (birds) or if people are still seeing red-headed woodpeckers, they can see where,” Voorhees said.

Where and when to bird

Voorhees said beginners can enjoy birding and bird watching from home initially.

Red-headed woodpecker photographed by retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees Feb. 9 by Hunt Lodge.

“One of the best ways to do that is to put a feeder in the backyard, bring the birds to you.”

Moving beyond the backyard depends more on what species a birder is looking to find, Voorhees said. For waterfowl, he suggested visiting Smith and Merrit Lakes on post or Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City, Kan. He suggested use of the walking trails on post to see birds in forest-based habitats, and noted that birders, who are often looking up, should be aware of their surroundings to avoid hazards.

Bird populations may change season to season based on migration, behavior patterns and other factors. Voorhees recommended birding in spring when birds are in bright mating plumage and some species will be in migration.

Ruby-crowned kinglet photographed by retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees Feb. 9 by Hunt Lodge.
Song sparrow photographed by retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees Feb. 9 by Hunt Lodge.
Yellow-rumped warbler photographed by retired Air Force Col. Brian Voorhees Feb. 9 by Hunt Lodge.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

16 − 4 =