Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bird is the Word

“What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird.” –David Attenborough

Snowy Owl in Acadia National Park
Photograph by Sarah Croston
Birds have weaved an invisible thread throughout my life and into my heart. My love for birds started at a young age falling in love with the majestic and ever so beautiful Snowy Owl. My love of Snowy Owls may have been influenced by the wooden carving my uncle made which stood proudly in our living room. Owls have fascinated me for as long as I can remember with their mysterious aura and wide eyes. As a young child, I was familiar with the feathered friends who would visit our bird feeder. I also spent lots of time flipping through the pages of The Audubon Society’s Field guide to North American Birds long before I knew how to read.

Taking data on a Savannah sparrow in the fields of
Shelburne Farms, Vermont. 
My passion for birds didn’t show itself again until college and even then it wasn’t clear to me. One of my professor, Noah Perlut, asked if I wanted to go to Vermont for the summer to study songbirds. Spending every day outside conducting research sounded like a great experience and I did not hesitate to say yes. I spent the summer in Shelburne, Vermont studying Boblinks and Savannah Sparrows. The days were spent nest searching, banding birds, and taking measurements on chicks and adults.

Sarah and barred owl, Grinnell.
Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs Ohio.

After my summer in Vermont, my love of birds flourished. I began to notice birds much more frequently than ever before. Their songs illuminate my days and seeing a flash of color now sends me looking for more. Since that eye opening summer, I’ve done more field work and have worked at a raptor center in Yellow Springs, Ohio. My passion for birds followed me here to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC).
While you may not think that there is a whole lot about birds going on at a marine science center, here in Port Townsend, there is! We have a great class that we teach to students called Birds of the Shore and Sea. In this class the students take a closer look at bird specimens observing specific species feet and beaks. They make educated guesses about what these birds might eat and where they live. The students also get a chance to go outside and participate in bird watching by the sea. My favorite part of this class is playing a recording of what a Bald Eagle sounds like and seeing the students’ reactions. The Bald Eagle might not sound as regal as it looks.
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The latest Puget Sound Seabird Survey in action
at Point Wilson.
PTMSC also partners with the Seattle Audubon Society. We conduct Puget Sound Seabird Surveys once a month. The survey takes place at Point Wilson and a dedicated group of volunteers survey the seabirds for a half hour no matter what the weather has in store. Many different bird species can be seen right around the Marine Science Center. As I am sitting here writing this I just saw a juvenile Bald Eagle soar by!
The most important thing I have learned is that bird watching is a great hobby, one that you can do basically anywhere. Whether you are observing songbirds that come to a bird feeder in your backyard or raptors you spot soaring high above the mountains out on a hike, birds hold a very special place in my heart. I hope to continue to learn about them throughout my life and share my passion with others.

Keep your eyes out for Sarah’s newest project called Birding from the Pier. Once a week she will be posting about a different bird she sees from the pier and a fun fact or two about it on our Instagram account and Facebook page
Sarah Croston, Americorps - Natural History and Volunteer Educator


  1. I liked reading about the birding background of Sarah and I'm looking forward to reading her blogs"Birding from the Pier". Karen

  2. Wonderful article and it just ignites for me my own passion for birds.


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