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September 11, 2018 - Larry Claypool
I recall my love for bird watching started in either the fifth or sixth grade at Chester (WV) Junior High. Well, maybe not love, but at least a recognition of watching birds, as I sat in Mrs. Shaw’s classroom and blurted out “HI GOLDFINCHY”. That pretty yellow bird was perched on a power line outside the school window and I found a need to announce that to my classmates.

I’m not sure why I did that. Looking for attention, maybe? It got Mrs. Shaw’s attention. And she quickly approached me, with a ruler in hand, and snapped a direct shot on the back of my hand. (It was allowed back then.) I remember it hurt, that’s it. And I imagine I didn’t speak out again in her classroom.

Move forward to my young adult years. I was probably 24. After nearly five years of working in the local steel mill, it shut down in 1982, and forced me to be laid off from work. Boredom set in while I looked for work and frequented the unemployment office. I turned to watching birds near our home in Wellsville, OH. I took many pictures out our back window, which bordered a wooded area. The photos helped me identify some of the birds. My wife couldn’t understand what the appeal was for me to be watching birds. I’m not sure either, but it was a good way to kill time for me.

I still love to watch and try to identify birds, whereever I am. My fishing trips are usually highlighted by seeing an uncommon warbler, duck or even an eagle, which are becoming more commonplace these days.

A few years ago a very slow fishing day on a local lake quickly shifted to being one of my best fishing trip memories. I‘m not sure we caught any fish over several hours of being on the water, but we did witness an adult eagle swoop down in front of us and snatch a fish out of the water for its next meal. I remember saying “that was pretty cool”.

So, what is the excitement about watching beautiful, feathery creatures in various sizes and colors? And yes, I own a bird feeder to help lure those flying creatures into my viewing stand (my back porch).

Bird watching, or “birding”, has become a big deal. Not only in our region, but across the world. Birding touches many, many arenas and there has been a lot of money made, again in many arenas, from what I would call a ‘hobby’. A very serious hobby for some though. So serious that it provides an income for some.

One such person who benefitted from bird watching — actually he dedicated his life’s work to recording and painting the fowl of all sorts — is one John James Audubon. The American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter was and is the standard when it comes to identifying birds. He’s best-known for cataloging (through his drawings and paintings) every species of bird in the United States that resulted in the publication of ‘The Birds of America’ (1827-1838). He followed that with many more books, manuals and artworks about birds and ornithology (the scientific study of birds).

You cannot read or view artwork about birds without seeing the name ‘Audubon’. His name is synonymous with anything related to birds or birding.

Many books and stories have been written about John Audubon. He lived a very interesting and fruitful life. Much of what we know and see about birds was created from Audubon’s work around the world. The National Audubon Society, Audubon International and so many more birding interests, programs and activities came from his work and legacy. There’s also many buildings, parks, streets and programs named after Audubon.

Birding enthusiasts can join The National Audubon Society for a membership fee. It’s a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. See more online at: There’s also regional Audubon Society groups in different states and worldwide.

With schools in the area now in session, parents should suggest their children do a book report on John Audubon. He’s that interesting. And if that happens please send us a copy and maybe we could print that report.

Good luck, and get out birding. You might see a ‘goldfinchy’.

Editor’s note: If you have a special birding story you’d like to share with our readers, contact me via email at:


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Goldfinch Courtesy of Metro Creative