Bird-watching is often passed down from generation to generation. That was certainly true for Mary Crow of Sisters, Oregon. Mary’s interest in birds was piqued at a young age. She recalled a family tradition, “Each fall was a celebration of the return of the robins to the Mountain Ash tree in our backyard. We’d laugh and enjoy their drunken behavior as they consumed the fermenting berries.”
At the urging of a friend and FeederWatch participant, Mary joined the FeederWatch program in 2006 as a way to avoid cabin fever and get through the long Oregon winters. Her count site consists of a large platform feeder on a six foot pole (to prevent the mule deer from emptying the feeders), several suet cakes, cracked corn for ground-feeding birds, and thistle feeders.
With that simple setup, Mary is able to attract a diversity of species including: Mountain Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, California Quail (imagine 50 quails crammed on a platform!), Eurasian Collared-Doves, Steller’s Jays, California Scrub-Jays, Cedar Waxwings, juncos, American Goldfinches, House Finches, grosbeaks, and woodpeckers. Her favorite species is the White-headed Woodpecker, which also nests in the area.
In addition to her backyard birding for FeederWatch, Mary is active in the local community. She lead hikes for the Deschutes Land Trust and often enriches the experience by incorporating her birding know-how. Mary’s sharp eyes were the first to spot an Acorn Woodpecker in her area. The woodpecker’s normal range is in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, not on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains where she photographed it at her count site during the 2014-2015 FeederWatch season.
When asked about tips for fellow birders, Mary had some great ideas including learning to bird by ear. “Learning the bird songs opened up and expanded my understanding of the world around me. Now, when I’m out hiking, kayaking, skiing, biking, or gardening and I hear a bird, I usually know which bird has joined me on my adventures, even if I can’t see it. It’s like having a friend stopping by to say ‘Hi’ for a few minutes.”
To help expand her bird knowledge, Mary also found the Cornell Lab’s Home Study Course a great resource and noted, “It was an amazing experience to completely immerse myself in the birding world for several months. Now I have a wealth of reference material, and the answers to many questions about bird behavior.” The Home Study Course has been updated and is now available through the Lab’s Bird Academy as the university-level, self-paced course, Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology.