Have you ever noticed an American Coot's lobed feet? Or seen the blue racing stripes above the eyes of a Steller's Jay? How about the beautiful red patches shining against the black feathers of a male Red-winged Blackbird? These are some of the special, up close looks we had on our walk at Rancho San Rafael Park. Last Saturday, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Diane Wong-Kone, along with LAS volunteer Mary Luzier and friend Jen Royle, led a bird walk and talk with the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project, or NYEP. This amazing local non-profit supports young, homeless women by giving them independent living opportunities. The AmeriCorps VISTA program is helping LAS expand birding and avian education opportunities to make a positive change in our community. This trip was originally scheduled for early September, in collaboration with the Western Field Ornithologists, another non-profit organization that was in town for their annual conference in Reno. Unfortunately, the smoke in the air that weekend caused a trip cancellation. This past weekend, we were able to do a rain, er smoke (?), check on the trip and go exploring. Monica, one of the NYEP counselors, brought four young adults on this beautiful day. Using LAS' taxidermy bird mount collection, we first learned about some of the local birds found at Rancho San Rafael, such as the House Finch, American Coot, White-faced Ibis, and Red-shouldered Hawk. After learning about bird bill and feet adaptations and some basic bird identification skills, the group practiced using binoculars, first on taxidermy birds, but soon enough, on live birds, as a Lesser Goldfinch landed on a thistle feeder right in front of us and a Steller's Jay popped out on the branch above our heads. Another highlight was close-up views of a male and female blackbird in the cattails on the side of the path. They seemed unconcerned about the humans staring at them and gave us some beautiful looks. The "cheesburger" bird, aka Mountain Chickadee, was also out, though that bird was more challenging to see flitting among the branches of a conifer tree. Nice long looks at California Scrub-Jays and Steller's Jays helped us learn the difference between two of our blue corvids. Click to see the eBird trip list with 15 bird species. By the end of the trip, everyone in the group had some nice looks at our local birds and the NYEP members are excited at the possibility of another trip with LAS to go birding at another local park! Where shall we go next?
If you like this story and would like to support LAS' efforts to provide birding opportunities throughout our community, please consider donating to our Fall Fund Drive. We provide opportunities like this thanks to support from the people in our wonderful birding community like you!