About Original FeederWatchers
In 2007, Project FeederWatch celebrated its twentieth anniversary, a milestone we can only attribute to the dedication and support of our devoted participants. At that time, 119 participants had been counting birds for Project FeederWatch since the very beginning in 1987. We wrote and asked them to share their FeederWatch stories. Scroll down to see quotes from some of the responses we received below. Click the thumbnails to the left to learn more some about some of these original participants. In 2017 when we celebrated our 30th anniversary, many of these committed participants were still counting!
John White of Excelsior Springs, Missouri, wrote, “I have always looked forward to participating in Project FeederWatch and have found it to be very enjoyable and educational. It is a good feeling to know that I have contributed at least a small part to the winter bird population data.”
After retiring and sadly losing his wife in July of 2002, John asked himself what is the one thing he would really like to do. His answer, “Get my degree!” In the 1950s, he attended the University of Missouri for four years, got married, got a job, and never finished. As of August 2007, he wrote to tell us he had two semesters and one summer course behind him and was eligible to earn a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife after his fall semester, at the age of 70! He says, “Next is graduate school and/or research work.”
Jamie Wright of Memphis, Tennessee, wrote, “I just enjoy seeing and hearing the birds. Winter would be dull and uneventful without them.”
Melanie Miller of Hays, Kansas, has a career in foreign languages and librarianship but says, “At one time, I wanted to be an ornithologist and later, a veterinarian.” Project FeederWatch allows “those of us who aren’t skilled enough to do this professionally” to be participants.
In addition to twenty years as a citizen scientist, Melanie holds two advanced degrees, a certification as a licensed bird rehabilitator, and is the author of “Birds: A Guide to the Literature,” which she partly researched at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She wrote, “I give you all this extraneous personal detail so that you understand how much it has meant to me to participate in Project FeederWatch for all these years.” Of all her achievements, she says, “I believe my proudest accomplishment is my certificate in Bird Biology from Cornell’s wonderful correspondence course.”
Barbara M. Souza of San Leandro, California, wrote, “As I reflect back on the past twenty years since I first answered an ad for Project FeederWatch that my husband found in a magazine, there have been many changes in our area, changes I probably would not notice otherwise.” Barbara says that her participation in Project FeederWatch has been a great learning experience for her grandchildren too. “They had a wonderful time ‘helping’ Grandma to count birds.”
Judith Anderson Thistle of Rochester, Minnesota, also enjoys watching birds with her grandchild: “The wonderful grandchild, almost nine, often visits for sleepover weekends. Our feeders, set on sweeps of lawn surrounded by woods abundant with acorns and wild black raspberries, attract Baltimore Orioles and Wild Turkeys, as well as deer–creatures he doesn’t see in the city.” Judith wrote, “FeederWatch–and our series of marvelous Alaskan Malamutes–have helped this non-native, survive our long Minnesota winters.”
Carl Woodward, Jr., of Highland Park, New Jersey, wrote, “For the last two or three years, a huge flock of robins (100+) has descended upon a holly tree adjacent to my lot. In a day they strip the tree of its ubiquitous berries. As they are busy stripping the tree, they become thirsty and drain my two bird baths in short order. This one-day feast takes place early in February each year. The birds behave in a frenzy-like manner. Very interesting to watch.”
Frances and Peter Mallet of Milton, Vermont, have seen many changes over the years. “When we started 20 years ago, the Evening Grosbeaks were consuming 50 pounds of sunflower seeds per week. Now it has been several years since we have seen even one.”
Dorothy Roes of Menahga, Minnesota, also noted the decline in grosbeaks. She wrote, “The one thing I really miss is seeing Evening Grosbeaks. When I started we would have over thirty on the feeders, but we have not seen one in over four years.”
Jane Haviland of Brunswick, Maine, wrote about her most memorable FeederWatching moment, which came during a 1998 ice storm: “With my first step out onto the deck, I was covered by a swarm of chickadees on my shoulders and arms and nuthatches on my head. That year, prior to the storm, I reported a high of 15 chickadees on my FeederWatch counts, but that morning 30 to 50 were all over me!”
Ann Plaisted of Ramsey, New Jersey, began watching and feeding birds with her family in the late forties after a chance meeting with “The Bird Lady of Tenafly, New Jersey, Betty Carnes,” who later became the first woman president of the Audubon. Ann says, “It doesn’t seem possible that Project FeederWatch is 20 years old (or that I’m 20 years older)!” The family hobby carried on to her grandparents in New York State, and now she says, “there are two younger generations who are interested. It’s a great hobby for all ages!”
M.W. Lewis, III, of Louisville, Kentucky, wrote, “I was at Cornell taking summer courses when Project FeederWatch was originated, and I have enjoyed it ever since. I have been a birder most of my life, and FeederWatch adds so much to the fall and winter months.”