Weekly Feature



2013-02-27 / Lifestyles

Birds of a Feather

Enthusiasts share birding experiences


Sue Barth of Orchard Park prepares to spend a few hours watching birds in her backyard. Barth keeps several feeders with different kinds of bird food in her yard to attract a variety of bird species. Sue Barth of Orchard Park prepares to spend a few hours watching birds in her backyard. Barth keeps several feeders with different kinds of bird food in her yard to attract a variety of bird species. For more than a year, Sue Barth searched in vain until one day she glimpsed a flash of white.

Raising her camera, Barth captured photo after photo of a northern mockingbird perching on a tree branch. She quickly added it to her life list on her blog “Chirps and Cheeps.”

“Seeing a northern mockingbird this past fall was just so neat,” she said. “They’re not all that uncommon, but I guess I was never in the right place at the right time.”

While the average person might not notice the birds that inhabit the trees in their neighborhood, birders like Barth are constantly keeping track of the different species they see in their backyard and elsewhere.


A red-tailed hawk perches on a tree trunk as Sue Barth captures its image with her camera during a trip to the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant. Barth posted this photo of the hawk as well as shots of an eared grebe, a ring-billed gull and an American pipit on her blog “Chirps and Cheeps.” A red-tailed hawk perches on a tree trunk as Sue Barth captures its image with her camera during a trip to the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant. Barth posted this photo of the hawk as well as shots of an eared grebe, a ring-billed gull and an American pipit on her blog “Chirps and Cheeps.” “I’ve always liked birds. I actually kind of had a mild interest when I was younger,” Barth said. “I was in the woods every day until I got older. My dad had a bird book, and we used to look at them.”

Three years ago, a newfound love of photography rekindled the Orchard Park resident’s interest in bird watching and encouraged her to identify the birds she photographed in her backyard.

“We had some bird feeders and stuff, and I was just zooming in on them,” Barth said. “I began to notice ‘Oh my gosh, these things are absolutely gorgeous.’ Right from then, when I began to really notice them, my interest just went crazy. It just blossomed.”

From there, Barth began venturing out to recommended areas for birding, including Chestnut Ridge and Amherst State parks and Sinking Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary in East Aurora.

Recently, Barth took a ride out to Medina in the hopes of photographing owls. She wasn’t disappointed.

“I’ve got quite a list of places that I frequent. Probably close to two dozen,” Barth said. “Now that I’ve started hiking a little bit, I really like being out there. I actually have to restrain myself to get work done.”

Barth regularly updates her blog with her experiences and photos of birds she’s seen on recent outings. The blog also features Barth’s life list, or a list of birds she has seen so far.

“I would say warblers are my favorite,” she said. “They’re just so delicate and pretty. We see so little of them, and it’s kind of that rarity thing.”

Some of Barth’s more recent posts include sightings of a great blue heron, short-eared owls, northern cardinals and a bald eagle.

“You think you notice things, but when you really look, it’s a whole different story,” Barth said. “It’s like looking through a microscope.”

Although Barth has been birding for three years, she still considers herself a novice. She recently joined the Buffalo Ornithological Society, which promotes the study of birds in the Niagara Frontier Region.

The society was established in 1929 and regularly meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month from September to June, at the Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humboldt Parkway, Buffalo.

The BOS also schedules birding trips and keeps a count of birds in the region, according to Bob DeLeon, treasurer of the BOS.

The counts are presented to the New York State Ornithological Association and help researchers get a better understanding of local bird populations.

“The BOS has counts in April, May and October. I’m in charge of the May count,” DeLeon said. “Everyone is assigned territories, and they go out and count all the birds in their territory. They keep a list, and we compile all the data.”

DeLeon, a Williamsville resident, said he’s been birding for about 25 years.

“I was always kind of interested in nature. I went out to Beaver Meadow one time, and they were having a nature walk, and it was a bird walk,” he said. “I got the bug really quickly.”

Now DeLeon goes at least once a week to watch birds. His favorite time to go birding is during the spring.

“Bird watching is kind of a seasonal thing,” DeLeon said. “Migration comes in spring and fall, and during that time, the interesting birds are coming through the area.”

Oftentimes, DeLeon will go birding with his wife, Donna, who is a birder herself and the recording secretary for the BOS.

“One of the nice things about bird watching, it’s really kind of a social thing,” DeLeon said. “You go out and see the birds, and you want to tell people about it.”

Like Barth, DeLeon said he enjoys watching warblers and other uncommon birds.

“Birders like rare birds. The warblers are always fun because they’re only here for a little while,” he said. “Owls are another type that a lot of people are very interested in. Owls are kind of hard to see because a lot of them are nocturnal, so it’s always exciting to see an owl.”

email: erikac@beenews.com

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