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Eagle-eyed birders flock to festival -- Festival of Birds helps people check off elusive birds on their 'to-see' list

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Eagle-eyed birders flock to festival -- Festival of Birds helps people check off elusive birds on their 'to-see' list
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Birders winged on over to Detroit Lakes Thursday for the kick-off of the 11th annual Festival of Birds.

Through different workshops and fieldtrips Thursday-Sunday, beginners and experienced bird-watchers had the opportunity to meet one another and hopefully check off some of those must-see birds.


Each year a theme bird is chosen, and this year it was the Connecticut Warbler. Fieldtrips to Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge and Red Lake/Beltrami State Forest were added in hopes of spotting the bird.

Leader Doug Buri, who specializes in shorebirds, took the fieldtrip to Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge last year and said it was "probably the best two hours of shorebirding in my life."

Thursday afternoon, about 20 birders participated in a beginning birding workshop. Buri of Milbank, S.D, and Judd Brink of Brainerd led a group of seven through Sucker Creek Preserve. Other leaders led the remaining birders through the preserve as well.

"I want this to be positive for you folks," Buri said as he encouraged his group to ask as many questions as they wished.

During the beginner workshop, he talked about different types of binoculars for birders, different types of identification books and how to map a bird through the binoculars.

As he talked, he listened for birds and would stop to have everyone focus on the birds, since that's what they were there for. As he was teaching the beginners -- which is also a variable term -- the proper way to focus binoculars, they spotted a yellow rumped warbler in the trees.

He explained how to map where a bird is from when it's spotted, which involves making a mental note of where it is and putting up the binoculars and finding it, without having to move the binoculars around.

"That is the biggest beginner's difficulty to overcome," he said.

Sandra Kennedy, Anoka, commented that after spotting the bird with her eyes, once she puts up her binoculars, it's such a difference in the size of the bird due to magnification that she's still looking for a tiny bird in the tree.

Buri fielded questions on binoculars, scopes and books from the birders. He gave his opinion, but made sure the people in his group knew it was just his opinion and each person has to find what works best for them. First and foremost though, he said, someone has to have the interest in birding to make it work.

One of those with an interest was Reba Walker from North Dakota. She said she had gone to a couple birding festivals in the past but not for several years. She's again interested in the festivals, but is choosy about which ones she attends. This was her first year at the Detroit Lakes festival.

"It seemed to be well organized and seemed to have leadership. It had what I was looking for," she said of the Festival of Birds.

She also has knee problems, so even though a bird festival in Turtle Mountain in North Dakota would have been closer for her to attend, it would have taken too much of a toll on her knees, so she chose Detroit Lakes instead.

She checked out birding journals and found the one that suited her best -- the Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds.

As the small group walked along the trail in Sucker Creek Preserve, they asked how to determine what bird they are actually viewing. Buri said it's a process of elimination most of the time.

Life lists for bird spotting are available online, but Buri said birders should make their own lists as well, and be creative with them.

"Do you have to be retired to be (an avid) birder," questioned Jacqueline Goodlin, Fargo, after hearing more and more information from Buri and the other members of the group.

"It helps, but no," Buri said with a laugh.