Tribune Print Share Text

Riderwood club participates in Cornell University nature project

Created date

April 24th, 2012

Friends of all things feathered flock together each week at the Riderwood Birders group. The group meets every Tuesday morning and walks around campus looking for birds, but their exploration doesn t end at the campus grounds. Once a month, the group ventures off the Silver Spring, Md., campus to places like Brookside Gardens or the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

100-plus species

Aside from enjoying the aesthetics of birds, every week the group records information about the birds they see and sends it to Cornell University as part of the citizen science project and e-bird list. That way, people from all over the United States can tap into what we re seeing here atRiderwoodand use it for their own research, says Becky Hedin, Riderwood resident and member of the Birders group. Becky s husband Alan diligently reports the weekly findings. Recording the findings is neat, Becky says. With the data, the group can graph the types and numbers of birds they see within a specific time period; this helps them notice trends such as the rise and decline of a species. Since the recording started, they ve seen more than 100 different species of birds on campus. Becky and Alan founded the Birders group when they first moved to Riderwood nine years ago, with the encouragement of their new neighbor, Anne Blackburn. Later, fellow resident Don Messersmith joined and helped expand the group. The Birders use field guidebooks as well as Don s expertise to identify the birds they see. Different markings determine different species. Even if birds share the same colors, unique markers on both wings and breast narrow down the identification.

Benefits of birding

In addition to the enjoyment of seeing birds in their natural environment, It s good exercise, Don says. It s a good hobby for people that gets them outside and learning about and appreciating nature. Group members needn t be expert birders. Amateurs are welcome. The group only requires an appreciation of all things feathered that fly. Becky and Alan appreciate birds from the sunroom of their Lancaster-style apartment home. They can watch birds frolic and play in a birdbath that Alan has had since he was an infant. They also use the patio garden outside their home as a place to plant blueberry bushes and other plants that attract birds. Seeing the birds actually come and enjoy the plants serves as a dual purpose, Becky says. The birds enjoy the fruits, and the Hedins enjoy watching the birds. Birds spotted around the Riderwood campus Common residents The great blue heron is a frequent campus visitor. The club saw three great blue herons during their weekly bird walk March 13. The northern mockingbird is found throughout the year and can be seen perched on many of Riderwood s outdoor light posts. Its varied songs are a delight to many. The song sparrow and wood thrush share their wonderful songs when the club ventures outdoors. The colorful northern cardinal and the American robin also make their rounds throughout the year. Rare finds Bald eagle Great egret Green heron Hooded merganser American coot Sharp-shinned hawk Cooper s hawk Red-shouldered hawk Spotted sandpiper Caspian tern Yellow-billed cuckoo Hairy woodpecker Yellow-bellied sapsucker Alder flycatcher Eastern phoebe Hermit thrush Yellow-rumped warbler Orchard oriole Eastern towhee