Owl

Despite COVID-19, birding remains a popular activity. Pictured is a barred owl at the Lowry Nature Center.

In a world where everything seems to be canceled, at least one outdoor activity is still soaring.

Observing and identifying wild birds, also known as birding, is an activity that can take place in scenic parks or out your own window, with members of your own household or by yourself, and with basic knowledge or years of experience. That’s right, the annual spring migration of the birds is not canceled and you can enjoy the spectacle while still following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of social distancing.

Even though many of us are staying home, some birds will travel thousands of miles during spring migration. During their travels, the Lowry Nature Center is a wonderful rest stop and therefore has become one of the top birding “hotspots” in the state.

With over 300 species identified, and numerous different habitats, the nature center truly is an exceptional place to enjoy birding as a hobby, recreational activity, or just for fun. But you don’t have to be at the nature center to enjoy the birds, birding can also be just as interesting in your own backyard!

People of all ages can enjoy birding as a pastime and you can get started with as little as a single birding field guide or smartphone app. This is meant to help you with identifying the species you may encounter, as they each have unique appearances, sounds, and behaviors.

Eventually you will want to have a pair of binoculars handy for birds that are too hard to see with the naked eye. Many birders also keep lists to help keep track of what they have seen, and when and where. In addition, setting up a bird feeder near a home window or in your backyard is a great way to attract local birds so that you can get a closer look at each species.

During this time of COVID-19 restrictions, birding can be a great escape. If you plan to visit the Nature Center or another regional park or trail to go birding, please keep social distancing in mind by staying six feet apart and not sharing equipment with others.

In addition, park visitors should come prepared for no access to water fountains and public restrooms. Please also refrain from visiting the parks when you or another member of your household are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

The trails at the Lowry Nature Center remain open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. You can learn more about the natural world through Lowry@Home, our digital learning headquarters. Visit threeriversparks.org/digitalprogramming for more information. You can also send any birding-related questions via email to Joshua.Sweet@threeriversparks.org.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and happy birding!

Josh Sweet is an office support assistant with the Lowry Nature Center. He can be reached at Joshua.Sweet@threeriversparks.org. Take 5 for Nature is a quarterly column from staff at the Lowry Nature Center, part of Three Rivers Park District, located in Victoria. The column aims to provide readers with information about what is taking place in the natural world around us.

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