Out & About: Name that loon? Plainfield workshop to teach birding by song

  • To limit stress on birds, veteran birder Dennis Paulson uses playback rarely and ordinarily just in remote areas. He got a response from a chestnut-backed chickadee. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT)

Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

PLAINFIELD — If you’ve always wanted to learn how to identify bird songs — or improve your listening skills — now is the perfect time to do it.

Birds have begun to return to the Upper Valley from their winter habitats, giving novice birders the opportunity to learn one or two new species at a time.

“As they come back slowly, you can sort of manage it better, because there are fewer to listen to,” explained Shideko Terai, secretary of the Meriden Bird Club. “By May, when more and more start to come, it’s quite a cacophony.”

Terai will lead a workshop called “What’s That Song?” from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday at Singing Hills in Plainfield. It’s the second in a three-part series of birding classes offered by the Meriden Bird Club, but participants need not have attended the first class. Each session focuses on a different aspect of birding.

Terai’s presentation is based on the popular “Birding By Ear” recordings created by Richard Walton and Robert Lawson, a method that groups birds into categories based on the type of vocalization they make.

For example, there are trillers and singsongers. There are birds that say their own name, such as the chickadee and the phoebe. There are birds whose sounds can be rendered as English phrases, like that of the barred owl (“Who cooks for you?”).

“Habitat is another important part of identification,” Terai said. “Once I hear a certain category, I look around and ask, ‘Where am I?’ In the forest, you probably wouldn’t hear a field sparrow.”

Terai began using Birding by Ear technique after purchasing a set of cassette tapes (it was the early ’80s) and participating in a workshop led by Walton himself, who visited the Audubon Center in Concord. “I had him autograph the inside of the cassette holder,” Terai said. “I’m such a nerd about things like that.”

Terai said her favorite song belongs to the scarlet tanager, which has often been described as “a robin with a sore throat.”

“What’s That Song?” will take place on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at Singing Hills, 351 Stage Road. The third and final workshop, “Let’s Find That Bird!”, is scheduled for Sunday, May 19. Admission to the programs is by donation. For more information, call 603-252-7898.

Here are a few other bird walks, lectures and workshops coming up in the area.

Bird photography talk in Hanover

When: April 14, 2-3:30 p.m.

Where: Howe Library, 13 South St.

What: Wildlife advocate, naturalist and award-winning bird photographer Peter Christoph explains the techniques he uses to capture intimate portraits of birds in their natural habitat. Free. 603-643-4120.

Spring bird walk in Woodstock

When: April 27, 8:30-11:30 a.m.

Where: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm St.

What: Nathaniel Sharp of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies introduces spring bird species, provides tips on how to use the eBird app and helps identify birds on a walk following an indoor presentation. For all ages and experience levels. Bring binoculars, if available, and dress for outdoor activity. Free. Pre-registration requested, as space is limited. To register, call 802-457-3368, ext. 222 or e-mail ana_mejia@partner.nps.gov.

NestWatch training program in Quechee

When: April 27, 1- 2 p.m.

Where: Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 149 Natures Way.

What: Learn about NestWatch, a citizen science project to monitor nesting birds. VINS is Vermont’s first official NestWatch chapter. This workshop provides hands-on experience in checking a nest box and collecting data. Admission is included with the VINS entry fee. $14.50 to $16.50, 3 and under free. 802-359-5000.

“Birding by Sight and Sound” in Newbury, N.H.

When: May 4, 7:30-9 a.m.

Where: The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens, 456 Route 103A.

What: Learn tips and tricks to identify bird songs and calls on this easy to moderate walk, led by Peter Newburn. Meet at The Fells kiosk. Advance registration requested. $10. Call 603-763-4789, ext. 3.

Raptor photography workshop in Quechee

When: May 5, 1- 3 p.m.

Where: Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 149 Natures Way.

What: Photojournalist Rob Strong guides a photo shoot with four of VINS’ resident raptors, with a focus on capturing movement. $50. Call to register. 802-359-5000.

Talk: “The Wonders of Woodland Warblers” in Springfield, Vt.

When: May 7, 2 p.m.

Where: Nolin Murray Center, 38 Pleasant St.

What: “Bird Diva” Bridget Butler talks about the 41 documented species of warblers in Vermont and how to look and listen for them. Part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute lecture series. $8. Co-sponsored by Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society. 802-885-3094.

Songbird program in Unity

When: May 18, 8-10 a.m.

Where: Sullivan County Complex, 95 County Farm Road.

What: Learn about songbirds and their life histories. Led by Leonard Reitsma, professor of zoology at Plymouth State University. Part of the Sullivan County Conservation District’s naturalist lecture series. Dress for the outdoors. $5-$10. Call or visit sccdnh.org to register. 603-542-9511, ext. 269.

Workshop: “Forestry for the Birds” in Woodstock

When: May 18, 8:30-11 a.m.

Where: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Prosper trailhead, 54 Elm St.

What: A guided walking tour of bird-friendly forestry work. Visit forest stands with recent forest management activities and gain an understanding of how harvesting trees affects habitat conditions. The discussion will focus primarily on management activities to improve conditions for declining species and those of conservation concern. Bring binoculars, if available. Dress appropriately for outdoor activity and bring a water bottle. Event continues rain or shine. Co-sponsored by Woods, Wildlife and Warblers Program, Vermont Coverts and the Vermont Woodlands Association. Free. Pre-registration requested, as space is limited. Call 802-457-3368, ext. 222 or e-mail ana_mejia@partner.nps.gov.

Bird monitoring workshop in Woodstock

When: May 25, 8-11 a.m.

Where: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm St.

What: The National Park Service Northeast Temperate Network has been monitoring bird populations at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park since 2006. Hear about this volunteer-run program and some of its findings, then head out for a walk around the park to identify birds and their songs. Bring binoculars and questions. Dress for outdoor activity. Free. Pre-registration requested. Call 802-457-3368, ext. 222 or email ana_mejia@partner.nps.gov

Bird walk in Claremont

When: June 1, 8-10 a.m.

Where: Moody Park, 152 Maple Ave.

What: Explore the trails and habitats of Moody Park with naturalist Wendy Ward and UNH Cooperative Extension forester Dode Gladders. Binoculars, bug spray and walking shoes recommended, along with water and a snack. Free. 603-863-9200, ext. 153.