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Birding programs stretch their wings

To mark the Year of the Bird and raise awareness about serious threats to birds and their habitats, the Ashland-based Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) is offering an all-year series of “Talk and Walks” — classroom talks with follow-up field trips that teach about birds and their science and conservation.

The fun and learning-rich community education programs strengthen the national network of understanding and support to keep bird populations thriving — and they are opportunities to buy bird stamps, which are a significant funding source for wildlife refuges, says KBO Executive Director John Alexander.

“The fact is, people really love birds. We’ve always looked up to them,” he jokes, “and we teach what we love. They’ve always been critically important to our culture, and we are going to protect what we love.”

It’s a phenomenon that, when people go to bird glasses or get out in nature on field trips, they like to open their wallets and give to bird programs, he says, and to that end, KBO is holding its “Wings and Wine” gala, to celebrate the Year of the Bird, which marks 100 years of the Migratory Bird Act. It’s coming up Sunday, Oct. 7, at Grizzly Peak Winery.

There are 60 million birdwatchers in the U.S. and, says Shannon Rio, KBO board president, her bird class at OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) is packed with 70 students.

“I love to connect people to birds. It’s so fun,” says Rio, noting it’s more of a genial colloquium, with students telling bird stories, asking questions and sharing a general love for all things feathered.

The Talk and Walks are $50 (tax deductible) a weekend and have been well-attended for five years. For each class, birding experts, conservation professionals, authors and artists donate their time as instructors and field trip leaders.

Classes have featured songbird, hawk, waterfowl, identification, birding by ear, nature photography, eBirding, birding expeditions and bird-friendly gardening. They are taught monthly in fall, winter and spring and have often included the Cascade Lakes and the Klamath Wildlife Refuges.

KBO sells the federal “Duck Stamp” (Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp), which is required for fowl-hunting and supports the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. It also creates and sells its Conservation Science Stamp, with regional artists who paint upland birds. It supports science-driven conservation and KBO.

The classes, says Rio, “are so important to me because people are hungry for information on birds and nature. People feel so satisfied and given to and want to know more about how to give back.”

The KBO website is klamathbird.org.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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