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Calling All Birders!

Andrew Forbes birding, photo by Liz Forbes

Birding has long-been a popular hobby. But when COVID changed our lives last year, birding took on new popularity, as many people spent more time outside or actively sought new pastimes in the great outdoors. In our fall 2020 issue, we asked you, our readers, to share your birding photos and stories. Thank you to everyone who responded. We’re happy to share this fun collection of photos and stories.

If you’d like to share your bird stories and photos, email them to urimag@uri.edu. As always, we encourage you to share your comments at the bottom of the page.

Read about URI’s bird research and alumni birders in the spring 2021 story, “An Avian Affection.”

Note: Bird identifications, when provided, are from our readers or editorial staff, and are not expert identifications. 

Rosemary A. Zurawel Jahnke, M.A. 75, M.A. ’82

The thrill of seeing birds at my feeders has resulted in my setting up a camera and tripod in the family room. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Deb Cole ’78

An egret in flight seen from Ninigret Pond in Charlestown, R.I.

On February 29, 2020, I retired from a lifetime of varied work experiences, the last 14 years of which were spent on the URI campus in the Controller’s Office.

I had so many plans for my first year of retirement, but since the COVID pandemic was declared just two weeks after my last day of work, my travel plans came to a screeching halt.

Luckily, I have always been an avid hiker, gardener, and outdoor enthusiast, so finding ways to occupy my time closer to home was easy. As a retirement gift, my hiking buddies gave me a now-treasured pair of binoculars for the many hours we would come to spend on the trails in the woods or on the water in search of all types of beautiful birds.

Having more time to take in my surroundings, I have been treated to sightings of many birds that I had previously missed during the rush and haste of my prior workaday world.

One day in late September, I was out in my kayak enjoying the day when I spotted a group of great egrets.  As I paddled towards them, I captured this beautiful shot of an egret in flight and was reminded that while I do love to travel, there is so much beauty close to home in little Rhody.

Two bluebirds perched at a painted birdhouse

Katherine McKiel Faella ’80

I was an employee of the University for 38 years, working at the Academic Computer Center and University Computing Systems.

I have been watching the birds in my backyard much more this year because of time home during the Covid Pandemic.  One of my favorite sightings was this pair of Eastern Bluebirds spotted at my home in South Kingstown.  

Amelia Grimes ’20

Started filling the feeders again and spending time between classes watching the birds! 

Ray Edler, parent of Leigh-Rae Edler Pukel ’94 and Kira Edler Jastive ’00

In May, I decided  to spice up daily walks on Bristol’s east shore along Mt. Hope Bay with my Nikon 3500 in search of sea birds, and was more blessed than I ever expected to be by many stunning air creatures in our midst. My first find on a lovely May afternoon was of glossy ibis inhabiting the marshland of Bristol Landing. 

Cardinal perched on a budding branch
Cardinal, Michelle Curreri

Michelle Curreri, M.A. ’00

I often see and hear cardinals. If I am lucky, I can take a photo before it flies away. This red cardinal visited me at my office on URI’s Kingston Campus. He chirped until I turned around. He is such a beautiful bird.

Bob Schachner ’60

These photos were taken in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson, Arizona. We enjoy the wildlife here, and every now and then a photo op appears. The variety of birds here is surprising despite the desert climate. We have retired here and normally travel back east for the summer; this year the pandemic prevented that. I have enjoyed photography with focus on wildlife as we traveled.

Andrew Forbes ’96

As a lifelong birder, I’ve always appreciated what studying birds and nature adds to my life (so much so that I made a career out of it!). This year was difficult for obvious reasons, which made birding especially important as a way to disconnect, even for a little while, from the day-to-day challenges of pandemic-induced isolation from my temporary home office.

Andrew Forbes looking through a monocular on a tripod at the shore of a lake.

However, the Covid pandemic did require some changes, particularly related to travel and avoiding crowds. To adjust to this, and have some fun doing it, our office decided to do a “Quarantine Green Birding Challenge” through which we all tried to detect as many species as we could in 2020, while only using our feet or bicycles to bird around our residences. For me, I gained a very different appreciation and familiarity for many of the green spaces close to my home, and I was able to learn about a few other great birding spots nearby that I had, quite frankly, dismissed before for other better-known locations further away. My personal highlights were seeing a Northern Saw-whet Owl at a nearby city park, and challenging myself to a 24-hour “Big Day” marathon by bike, where I was able to record 128 species of birds, while traveling over 40 miles by bicycle and 9 miles by foot from sunrise to dark.    

I’m proud to say that as of this writing, our small group has seen over 200 species of birds (combined) close to our homes this year. It was also great to see and meet so many people and families out and about that were trying out birding for the first time in 2020. I hope that they continue to enjoy this pastime once the pandemic is in the past, and that it adds as much to their lives as it has to mine. 

Andy Forbes is deputy chief, migratory birds, region 3 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Red tailed hawk baby on the ground, seen from above
Red tailed baby hawk

Donna Gierveld ’77

I have been watching the birds more than ever since the pandemic began.  We even had a visit from a bald eagle! This was the cutest guy I ever met on one of my walks!

Tom Pizza ’70

During my career as a civil engineer I was fortunate to have traveled and worked in the Caribbean, Europe, South America, Africa, the western U.S., and Hawaii with many wonderful and unique experiences for which I express gratitude to URI.

I am sharing some bird photographs of mine. Some are older, but I enjoy photography and it is a good outdoor activity, especially now. The coast is easily accessible from here (Thousand Oaks, California), as is Channel Islands National Park, which is such an amazing and productive place, although the concession boat trips had been temporarily suspended until a week ago. Looking forward to heading back out there.

Johana Rotterova, Post-Doctoral Fellow, URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Coastal Institute

These photos were taken in Narragansett and North Kingstown, R.I.

One comment

  1. Before reading the spring 2021 issue of University of Rhode Island Magazine article, “An Avian Affection”, by Tod McLeish, I never knew that URI had a Wild Life Research Station. It’s even more interesting that a chemistry professor, Prof. Douglas Kraus, was connected to these endeavors. Somehow I was not aware of this despite being chemistry major. Although, I suppose it is not surprising given the lack of overlap with Prof. Kraus’s tenure and the amount of lab work required in the chemistry major at the time which severely impacted free time :-).
    In any event, for most of my life I have always been interested in watching and viewing birds, bugs etc. I find it relaxing to sit by a body of water or at the edge of a field to observe the various behaviors and the ebb and flow of nature. While I am not by strict definition an avid birder with an ever growing life list; I do still watch birds and enjoy casually identifying them, observing their behavior and occasionally taking a good photograph or two. Recently I came across a heronry (aka. heron rookery) and was treated to some excellent photographic opportunities. Some of my photos can be found at the link below.


    Be Well and Stay Safe,
    Robert L. D’Ordine
    BS, Chemistry, 1990

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