January 6, 2006
Western Tanager
Western Tanager
Herb Fibel, a Tempe attorney, has been one of the luminaries of the Phoenix birding scene for well over two decades.  He has served Maricopa Audubon Society as President and Treasurer, and he recently marched as a beloved Orme Dam Fighter in the Yavapai Nation's 24th annual Orme Dam Day Celebration Parade, honored for his central role in the defeat of the Verde River dam project which would have displaced most of Arizona's breeding bald eagles and most of the Fort McDowell Indian community back in the 80's.

Why should a beginning birder care about this?  Because since 1989 Herb has been teaching a Basic Birding Class for Tempe Parks and Recreation.  This is a class I would highly recommend for anyone interested in birding but not knowing exactly where or how to begin.  Herb teaches three seven-week courses per year--winter, spring, and fall.  The classroom sessions meet from 7-8:00PM on Wednesday evenings at the Pyle Adult Center at 655 E Southern in Tempe.  That's on the southwest corner of Rural and Southern.  Additionally there are three half-day field trips, typically on weekends to local birding hotspots.

How do you train your new bins on a bird speeding across your field of vision at 80 mph before it disappears into the gloaming?  Why should you buy a field guide that covers the entire country when there are several out there that focus just on the birds of Arizona?  How do you distinguish between a hawk and a sparrow or, better yet, between the 35 species of sparrows themselves?  And why is a bird called a lark bunting really a sparrow while a bird called an olive sparrow really isn't a sparrow?

Why isn't the color of the bird the most important feature for identifying it, and why is the color of the clothes you wear in the field important?  If you're out with a group and you spot a bird, what's the best way to apprise the others of its presence and location?  And what is this "listing" thing all about anyway?  I'm going to address some of these questions in this column, but Herb is going to cover them all with patience, make-you-groan humor, and a well-practiced conservation ethic.

This wonderful introductory experience costs all of $24.  The next session begins on January 18 and runs through March 8.  You don't have to live in Tempe to participate, but it is limited to 12 people.  If you miss this one, there will be another in the spring.  Your contact for questions is Tempe Outdoor Recreation Coordinator, Lyn Cahill-Ramirez.  She can be reached at 480-350-5263.

Basic Birding Class is fun, but it's real school.  Herb is going to give you a couple homework assignments which will help take you where he has been.  And hopefully, if you take the class in spring or fall, you'll see the bird that attracted Herb back to birding as a young adult.  The spectacular western tanager, red and yellow and black, should do that for anyone.