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Perspectives on Outings — Gone to the Birds — I know I have!
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by Russ Flowers,Outings Chair | 2013

Most people are happy that winter is finally over. Normally I’m one of those people; however, this year I am a little sad to see it go. I enjoy the outdoors, especially in the spring and fall, and I normally hibernate like a bear in the winter. This winter was different. After taking some birding classes with the WV Master Naturalist Program and attending some birding festivals last year, I began to get addicted to birding. Instead of watching TV, my wife and I observed birds in our back yard at our feeders and participated in bird counts. In addition, we went on lots of bird walks during the winter.
Living along the Ohio River, we are fortunate that we have thousands of birds migrating here from further north, especially water fowl. Among some of the most beautiful species we have observed are the Hooded Merganser, Canvasback, Redhead ducks and of course Wood and Mallard ducks. I was introduced to several species by joining the local birding club, and reintroduced to some old familiars like the Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawks, etc. 
While some would regard winter’s lack of foliage on hardwood trees an eyesore, I have found it beneficial to spotting birds, especially birds of prey. To my amazement, there are bald eagles nesting in our area. I have been fortunate to see over 15 bald eagles (including juveniles) in my area over this winter. That being said, I’m a bit sad to see winter go.
The sadness is short lived, however, because spring brings a whole new cycle of birding onto the horizon. Birds will be migrating by the thousands. It will be exciting to see the various Warblers and Crossbills visiting our area. In addition to viewing, sometimes hearing the birds is just as invigorating. I was on an American Woodcock outing a few evenings ago and we heard the elusive bird, but never saw one. Our outing was rewarded with a special visit from a Long-eared Owl flying right over our heads. Moments like that continue to feed this new addiction.
The great thing about this new passion is that I can combine it with my other love — hiking. While on the trail, I will not only observe the trees, wildflowers, and scenery, I will also look and listen for the birds and songs I am learning. I’m looking forward to what I may see in the trees and fields along many of the state’s trails in the coming months.
I challenge you to look for ways to enjoy your passion for the outdoors. Please take a look at one of our many outings. They are created for all skill levels, and we offer something for lots of different interest areas (hiking, biking, canoeing, nature walks, workshops, service projects, etc.). The outings are a great way to meet up with old friends, meet new ones and to fellowship with like-minded people. Our outings are open to members and non-members, so invite your friends to join you.
If you are interested in participating in an outing or interested in becoming an outings leader, please feel free to contact me or one the many outstanding outings leaders. 
Take to the Outdoors!

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