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Becoming a Master Birder

My column in The Corvid Crier is most often about a conservation issue of import to the survival of birds. This month I’m taking a slightly different approach to seeing what is important for birds.

By Andy McCormick

I’d like to share a little about my year of studying birds, and tell you there is hope for the future of birds.

Andy McCormick by Mick ThompsonIn early May I completed the Seattle Audubon Master Birder program. It is a course of study that takes two 11-week semesters to complete and covers 341 species of birds that are commonly seen in the state of Washington.

For each species students study bird identification by plumage, behavior and song, habitats used by birds, and the seasons when birds are found in Washington. Also included are units on migration strategies, breeding strategies, feather molt, architecture of bird flight, and research and conservation issues.

As a veteran birder I knew a fair amount about birds, but I learned a tremendous amount more during the course and improved my skills as a field observer.

I also learned that there are young people out there who are enthusiastic about birds: finding them, identifying them, studying them, teaching others about them, and listing them. Members of my master birder class are involved in teaching elementary and secondary students about birds and were part of a group that took students to Texas on a birding trip during spring migration.

Other class members are involved in preparing bird specimens. They are participating in monthly censuses of Seattle parks and in the Puget Sound Seabird Survey. There are others who are, as I am, primarily involved in Audubon chapters in western Washington.

The important thing about all of this is that there is an active core of people who care about birds and their habitat and are willing to work to protect and restore it for birds in the future. There are many of these people in Eastside Audubon as well.

The experience has given me a broader perspective of Audubon and more hope for birds in the future. I am sure these younger birders will take their enthusiasm and share it with everyone they know.

In the March–April issue of Audubon magazine the focus was “Why Birds Matter.” Well, now I have a new experience of why they matter. It is because they excite people about the world around them so much that they want to do something to keep these beautiful beings singing in our lives.

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The mission of Eastside Audubon is to protect, preserve and enhance natural ecosystems and our communities for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.