Imagine a group of ten people standing perfectly quiet; for ten minutes not a word, just the subtle rustling of the wind in the rushes along the shore of Lake Rebecca at the bank of the Mississippi in Hastings, Minnesota. Now the silence is interrupted by the sound of willow leaves brushing against each other and there in the greenery is a Cedar Waxwing. A soft, “Oh,” circulates amongst the group and you can almost feel the shivers of quiet excitement. This is the Hastings Birding group. It’s a quiet thing.
After spending time learning and listening to the materials provided we began our weekly observations in early June. At first the group was clumsy with the field glasses and scope and they definitely had to practice quiet behavior, but as the weeks went on they gained comfort in recognizing the birds both by sight and sound. They also learned that being quiet and listening is an important ingredient to successful observation.
Finding the crow, robin and mallard came easily but learning to identify a Cedar Waxwing, or Peregrine Falcon, now that requires some patience.
Each week the group returned to the Hastings Center to enter their findings on the Cornell web site. Recording the data was just one part of our proposed project; we also created bird trivia cards, made photo greeting cards and crafted both bird houses and mosaics.
After twenty weeks of observing, the birders were ready to share their citizen science knowledge and data with the people of Hastings. On September 22 we held an open house with interactive stations for all ages. What a thrill to watch our clients assume the role of expert, teacher, and authority. They greeted their guests with enthusiasm and pride as they directed them around the displays explaining each step. I heard, “I am Nicholas, can I tell you about the birds I know?” “My name is Tina; would you like to try my bird trivia cards?” And in return from our community I heard, “I didn’t know that.” “This is amazing, how beautiful.”
It was great, who knew that we had birders in our midst! Thank you to Cornell for giving us the opportunity to be contributors and educators. We watched 112 Mallard ducks grace the shoreline and found one Peregrine Falcon circling the sky. The elusive Black-crowned Night-Heron escaped us, but we learned so much.
There is a lyric by Fred Ebb that says it all:
Happiness comes in on tip-toe
Well what’d’ya know
It’s a quiet thing
A very quiet thing
Our Hastings clients wrote a poem to describe their birding experience.
Birds flying in the sky are a rainbow in my eye.
I feel their wind and their breeze as they pass through the trees.
I feel good
Listening to the birds is uplifting, I know I’m not alone.
Seeing that one special bird is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Lifeworks is a Minnesota nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities live fuller lives that are integrated into the flow of community experience. Through employment at area businesses and social enrichment opportunities, Lifeworks provides the tools individuals need to live the lives they want to live. To learn more visit www.lifeworks.org