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Archive for June, 2020

Birders everywhere recently celebrated #BlackBirdersWeek which was triggered by the experience of Christian Cooper in Central Park in New York City.  Christian, a black birder, was confronted by a white woman with a dog running off leash in the Ramble, an ecologically sensitive part of the park.  Christian politely asked the woman to leash her dog and she responded by threatening to call the police and then following through with the call and lying that Christian was threatening her.  Birders rallied in their support of Christian, a board member of New York City Audubon and an expert birder.  For more, see National Audubon’s story, ‘Black Birders Week’ Promotes Diversity and Takes on Racism in the Outdoors.

Blackburnian Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Blackburnian Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

John Haire shared his memories of Christian with Forsyth County birders.

“Christian Cooper showed me my first Blackburnian Warbler in the spring of 1994, when I lived in NYC.  He was one of the folks that actively birded “the Ramble” in Central Park, and was someone I looked up to because I was a beginner and he was already experienced and knew his stuff.  It’s amazing how some bird memories persist, and that is one I will never forget!”

The spectacular Blackburnian Warbler has had a powerful effect on many birders.  It was Phoebe Snetsinger’s spark bird in 1961 that fueled her drive to see as many of the world’s birds as possible.  She went on to become the first person to observe over 8,000 species.  Former Forsyth Audubon President Susan Jones called the Blackburnian Warbler her gateway bird.

In the trailer for the documentary, “Birders: The Central Park Effect,” Christian calls out a Blackburnian Warbler.

Later, John told me, “It was just one of those bird memories that last forever, like I can remember my first warbler (a Common Yellowthroat), my first towhee, first Cedar Waxwing, etc.  I just vividly remember that CC showed me a Blackburnian in Central Park (with some time, I could probably re-find the place).  It’s funny how some birds are so memorable years later!”  John added that Blackburnian Warbler may still be his favorite warbler.

Cerulean Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Cerulean Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Carol Cunningham joined the conversation with memories of birding with John.

“John Haire showed me my first Cerulean and first Blue-Winged Warblers.  He obviously had a good teacher in Christian Cooper.”

Hooded Warbler. Photo by Allison Gagnon.

Hooded Warbler. Photo by Allison Gagnon.

Allison Gagnon also has fond memories of birding with John.

“I understand completely! John Haire led the way for us to have great looks at a Hooded Warbler he heard at Reynolda one time, and I always think of him when I see, or even hear them!”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Let’s end with Deirdre Herrington reminiscing about another of our favorite Forsyth County birders, Rob Rogers.

“A year after I retired I took Rob Rogers’ course at Forsyth Tech and haven’t looked back.  It’s been such a joy to open my eyes and ears to the avian wonders all around.  So when we were asked to muse about who showed us which bird for the first time I have to think of Rob and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (although there were many others, of course).  Our class of novice birders were following Rob around like imprinting ducklings at Reynolda when he heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, sighted it and followed it to its nest.  I still remember which tree.   At the time, I was fixated on visual identification but marvelled at Rob’s ability to first hear a particular bird and then try to find it.  Even when the song of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was pointed out to me, I couldn’t seem to catch it.  This led to an “ah ha” moment when I realized I have high frequency hearing loss (another reason to start birding when you are young).  Four years and a hearing aid later I hear those rascal gnatcatchers all the time!   While the amplification helps, I also finally recognized what to listen for.  It’s delightful to see the various species up close through binoculars, but recognizing their songs has doubled the pleasure.  So I’d like to sincerely thank Rob, but also the many other experienced birders in Forsyth Audubon that I’ve cornered on bird walks and Audubon trips (Cynthia Donaldson, Nathan Gatto, Ron Morris, Bill Gifford and Mike Conway to name a few).”

Blue-winged Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

Blue-winged Warbler. Photo by Jeff Gresko.

We are very fortunate to have a local community of birders who love to share.  Join the conversation and tell us about your favorite memories in the comments.

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