By Ellen Spitaleri
To get closer to nature, all you have to do is look up. Go outside, look up at birds in the sky and to find out more about them, look them up in Stan Tekiela’s new book Pacific Northwest Birding Companion.
Tekiela is the author of more than 175 field guides, nature books, children’s books and wildlife audio CDs. He is a well-known naturalist, wildlife photographer, columnist and radio personality.
His book is particularly handy for novice birdwatchers, as it is organized by bird color. If a flock of small yellow birds suddenly appears in your backyard, turn to the yellow section in the book, then page through until you see the goldfinch or Wilson’s warbler, the most common yellow birds in the metro area.
Tekiela said it seemed natural to organize the book by color of bird.
“For the past 45 years, I have been leading birding trips for beginning birders. It was painfully obvious to me that most people first see color. Not the shape or behavior, but just a flash of color.”
The Pacific Northwest Birding Companion is more than just a book about identifying birds, it presents strategies for observing birds, describes bird nests and migration patterns. It is illustrated with colorful photographs of individual birds, many of them taken by Tekiela.
A map of birding hotspots from British Columbia to Idaho is included, as is advice about what to do if you find an injured bird. Each page includes space for observers to keep field notes about bird sightings.
Tekiela said that in general he goes to national wildlife refuges to observe birds, “because there are fewer people and more wildlife, as compared to the state parks which are set up more for people.”
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, in Ridgefield, WA and Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, in Sherwood, are within an hour’s drive of Portland. Other close-in birding spots are Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Sauvie Island Wildlife Area and Smith and Bybee Wetlands.
Tekiela likes to go along the coast to see a wide variety of birds from peregrine falcons to shorebirds and gulls. On the Oregon Coast, he recommends Fort Stevens State Park for songbirds and Tillamook Bay for waterfowl.
His favorite bird that can be found in the Pacific Northwest is the Lewis’ Woodpecker, “because there is something super cool about a green woodpecker.”
The bird was named after Meriweather Lewis first described the bird in 1805 during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Although he has been interested in nature and birds for as long as he can remember, Tekiela is somewhat surprised about the recent uptick in birdwatching.
“I do know that as people get older, they seem to get more interested in learning about nature and birds in general,” he said.
Looking at birds is a good excuse for a summer road trip, but people can also watch birds in their own backyards in the Portland metro area.
“Backyard bird-feeding and water stations are a fun way to draw birds closer to your home where you can see them. Offering shelled peanuts is one way to really increase the number of birds coming to your feeding stations,” Tekiela said.
“Backyard bird feeding is a marvelous way to connect back into nature,” he added “When we feed birds in our backyards, we are not doing it for the birds or to help them survive, because the birds have been surviving without us feeding them for millions of years.
“It is for our own benefit that we feed birds. We feed birds in our yards, to draw them closer to where we can see them. It helps us to connect to nature in ways we didn’t expect.
“Learning about birds and how to identify them is just the first step into a greater understanding of the natural world and we are completely and utterly dependent upon the natural world,” he concluded. “Perhaps if we understand more about the natural world, we will be better stewards of the planet.”
Pacific Northwest Birding Companion, is available at tinyurl.com/Pacificbirding. Find the ebook version at the Multnomah County Library.
To report an injured bird in the Portland area, call Portland Audubon’s Wildlife Hotline at 503.292.0304.