Learning All About Birds at Bellingham Senior Center
Oct 30, 2019 12:16PM
By Pamela Johnson
Leslie Glover and Frank McMahon
story & photo by Dave Dunbar, Contributing Writer
How do you tell a Hairy Woodpecker from a Downy Woodpecker? By becoming a “Backyard Birder,” of course. Frank McMahon and his wife, Leslie Glover, can show you the way. On the first Thursday of every month, they are at the Bellingham Senior Center with helpful tips on how to welcome birds into your backyard, what to feed them, and how to tell which bird is which (for example, the Hairy Woodpecker is larger and has a different bill shape than the Downy).
“We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now,” explained McMahon, “and two years ago, we expanded to include waterfowl and birds beyond your backyard.”
Frank and Leslie simply like birds. They have observed them in their backyard in Bellingham and started to study them. Out of this interest grew their presentations at the Senior Center.
Last month, sixteen people showed up for their presentation, which looked at October birds. “Birds and Halloween have a connection,” noted McMahon; “there are crows, ravens, blackbirds, and owls. The ‘caw, caw’ of the crows signals the end of summer and the coming of Halloween.”
Legends and superstitions about these birds come from, among other countries, England, France, Germany and Sweden. (By the way, bats are not birds; they are actually mammals of the order Chiroptera and are the only mammals capable of true flight.)
Fall in New England means leaves dropping off trees, leaving bird nests exposed for viewing. “See them now,” advises McMahon, “before storms blow them down.”
His presentation is accompanied by slides that give attendees a clear picture of what he is talking about. He mentions that bird watching can help sharpen your powers of observation, allow you to explore your backyard, give you something to talk about, and provide an opportunity to connect with new friends.
In your backyard, you might want to not rake up all of the fallen leaves but keep a few under bushes for the birds to visit for feeding during the winter. A little brush pile also provides birds with bugs to eat and a place to hide for safety--and maybe even a bonus for you--watch for birds coming in that you haven’t seen before.
One that you won’t see is a Puffin. About as close as they get to Bellingham is Maine. “There are about 10 million pairs of Puffins,” said McMahon, and they come from a tiny island off the southern coast of Iceland where the “pufflings” hatch on high cliffs, fly out and land in the chilly waters.
Paul Peter, one of the attendees, noted that “Frank is the ultimate presenter that shares every fact with us. This is knowledge gained that we would not ever come across.” Another attendee, Beverly Trimm, said she liked the “overview of neighborhood birds” and thought the Puffins piece “was very informative.”
Guess what the bird for November might be. If you guessed “turkey,” you’re right. Did you know that turkeys were first hunted for their feathers--not for eating? And what about turkeys involved in presidential pardons? By the way, did you know that “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving song?
Frank and Leslie will appear at the Bellingham Senior Center on Thursday, November 7, at 10am. Their presentation is free, but please call (508) 966-0398 to reserve your seat.
Visit www.audubon.org for more information. The Bellingham Public Library also has lots of books about birding.