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Bird Club offers educational opportunities

BY KATIE HEINE | APRIL 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Not even the fog could hide the flitting.

“There — look,” said Iowa City resident Karen Disbrow in a loud whisper, pointing to a minuscule bird that had just sprung from a group of trees.

Around 20 pairs of binoculars shot up, scanning a forest of bare trees, searching for the bird. Once spotted, the vibrant yellow stripe atop its head stood out amid the dreary backdrop.

The bird was a yellow-rumped warbler, and the spectators were part of an organized bird watch with the Iowa City Bird Club on April 9 at F.W. Kent Park, west of Tiffin.

According to the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, 424 bird species live in or migrate through Iowa, up from 419 last year, but members are eagerly awaiting warmer weather, when local birders can expect to see an increase in variety.

“Iowa is one of the best places to be to bird,” said Disbrow, the president of the Iowa City Bird Club. “We have so much diversity and lots of different habitats.

For the past 30 years, the Iowa City Bird Club has been helping people take advantage of the beauty of birding.

“Our aim is to show people some good birding areas across the county,” said Disbrow, who’s been an active member of the club for the past 22 years.

The Iowa City Bird Club was established in 1981, and it continues to expand its efforts to educate people about birding. Today, the club offers introductory birding courses and weekly field trips for participants to apply what they’ve learned.

“It’s great having people who know what they’re looking at,” said North Liberty resident Sharon Somers. “I don’t quite have that knowledge yet.”

The 50-year-old said she’s “pittled” with bird watching in the past, but is more confident after taking a few courses. Regardless of her “newbie” status, she said, she’s intrigued by the whole process.

“There’s something about the chase of finding something new,” she said.

The bird club has roughly 150 members, Disbrow said, a dramatic increase from the seven members it had in 1999. But membership is not required for participation.

North Liberty resident Jen Hommel participated in her first birding event this past weekend. Though the 40-year-old’s binoculars weren’t quite as advanced as some others, she used her digital camera’s zoom.

She said she enjoys taking pictures and being outside, and bird watching allows her to do both.

“The best part is just waiting to be surprised,” Hommel said. “Sometimes we forget about all this beauty.”

Though it’s called the Iowa City Bird Club, Disbrow said the club has expanded to include all sorts of nature-related topics, such as botany and butterflies. April’s monthly meeting will feature a special presentation on Ryerson’s Woods Park — an Iowa City park known for its diverse and unique plant species.

Disbrow said she recommends bird watching because of its accessibility. It involves little cost and little knowledge — just an interest for the outdoors, she said.

“The beauty is that you can do this at any age, and it builds itself with time,” Disbrow said.


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