February 1, 2008
Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross
Haven't started on those New Year's birding resolutions yet?  Cynthia Donald, Program Chairperson for Maricopa Audubon Society, can give you a jumpstart on my January 4th list.  She'll be teaching a seven week beginner birding class at the Desert Botanical Garden starting on Wednesday evening, April 2nd.

As with many of us, Cynthia was a nature lover first and became hooked on birding as she became fascinated by the birds she was seeing in her initial outdoor pursuit, in her case a passion for deep sea diving.  Seabirds, specifically for her the black-footed albatross with its awesome seven foot wingspan, will do that to you.

Cynthia has dived and birded throughout the Western Hemisphere, and her travels with birding tour groups has given her keen insights into the problems and difficulties that beginners encounter in the field.  The result is a comprehensive course she has developed which goes beyond the technicalities of identification.  It covers choosing optical equipment that is right for you, how to use a field guide, the best way to access and utilize birding websites, why conservation should be the most important aspect of your new birding avocation, and birding ethics.

The main focus of Cynthia's class is, of course, bird identification, and you will learn it by studying bird anatomy and how and why the various parts of a bird provide field marks that lead to recognition and differentiation of species.  Related topics such as breeding biology, habitat preferences, nest building, and the mysteries of migration will be covered as well.

In addition to the seven Wednesday evenings of classroom work, which run from 6:30 to 8:00pm, there will be four weekend field trips, some half day, some all day.  Cynthia plans to visit the ponds along the Scottsdale Greenbelt, the Verde River, the Gilbert Riparian Area, and Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park.  All this for $60 if you are a Desert Botanical Garden member, $75 if not, and you may sign up online or by calling the garden at 480-941-1225.

Depending on who's counting, about 800 birds species can be seen in North America.  That's a lot of birds and a lot of potential confusion for those who want to place the proper label on what they are seeing.  Many birders who start on their own are discouraged by poor equipment or the terminology and organization of their first field guide.  Though its unlikely you'll ever see an albatross in Arizona, by the end of this course you'll certainly know what one looks like and be well on your way to recognizing most of the birds typically seen in Arizona.  This class will fulfill one of your New Year's resolutions and set you up for the friends and adventures of a lifetime.  "Going to class" was never this much fun.  Cynthia's limiting the course to twenty students.  Call now.