Since 1978 we have worked entirely in the field -- year round from coast to coast and border to border. Studying a wide range of birds from the small Calliope Hummingbird to the Whooping Crane. Working with the birds using various methods such as feed, blinds, canoe, etc. . . to ensure close study.

We have had Virginia Rails walking between our feet while in our blind studying the Least Bittern at Salton Sea, California. When beaching the canoe on Monomoy Island (Cape Cod National seashore), Massachusetts, we have had various species of Shorebirds walk up to and round the bow of the canoe and keep going unflustered.

Being able to approach and study the birds so closely is a result of years of being around and working with live birds. Years of studying not only bird behavior but other animals as well, for all wild animals are alert to the alarm calls of others.


 

After much time and patience we were able to hand feed sand fleas to Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones while doing shorebird studies along the Northeast coast of Florida.

Our preferred method of work/study is to put our carving out with the live birds -- by viewing this at close range, with


binoculars, we can tell if the head is too wide or bill out of proportion, etc. This method is very reliable.

When studying the American Goldfinches, along the coast of Maine, we placed our roughed out carving on the feeder of a thistle. Right away we could see the corrections that needed to be made as the live birds came to feed beside it. Each time a correction was made it was returned to the feeder to again face comparison.

While working on the Gambels Quail in Cottonwood, Arizona, we put our freshly painted Quail with a covey we had coming into corn -- mistake -- even though the carving was away from the feed, they fed right around it. In their frenzy they scratched dirt all over the fresh oil paint. We now wait until the carvings are dry!

While studying Black Neck Stilts, again at Salton Sea, we placed the finished carving on a shell bar and watched as a pair came by. The first bird did not pay that much attention, but the other Stilt was very put out by the carving and was not satisfied in leaving until he landed a blow with his bill on the back of the carving.

When studying Rufous Hummingbirds at Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, we were fortunate to catch the migration of families in mid-August. It was fascinating to watch an aggressive male Hummingbird retreat from a Dragonfly. After working with them, we had both the Rufous and Broadtailed Hummingbirds sitting on our fingers, shoulders and even lighting on and about our carving of a Rufous Hummingbird with a Red-maid flower.

While at Howard Prairie Lake, Oregon, we studied two nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. Being a great Rainbow Trout lake, we would share part of the catch with the Eagles. The Eagle watched us for a few moments then lifted off his perch -- the slow circular glide descending to the trout was magnificent -- the legs were extended the last half of the journey often coming within 25 feet of the boat. The size, power and close proximity of the Eagle was amazing -- this also helped relieve the pressure on the Osprey who are often harassed by the Eagles.

These are just a few of the many, many experiences we have had since 1978 in a few of the many locations where we have had the privilege of doing our work. We feel it is important to actually "be there" and experience the live bird not only in appearance but in attitude and characteristic interaction with not only others of his own specie but with other birds (and animals) as well. During our travels we have returned to some of the areas we previously visited (at the same time of the year). We are often saddened and infuriated by the decrease in the number of birds and the loss of their habitat.  

Adventures of “Landing”

Over the past few years we have had the opportunity to actually acquire property near one of our favorite birding areas in southern Oregon on the east side of the Cascade Mountains—it also has six National Wildlife Refuges and Crater Lake National Park all within a beautiful one hour drive. We stumbled onto the property and were delighted that the previous owner was with the National Park Service [and was relocating].

The first dwellings to go up were bird houses and the tree swallows took up residence along with western bluebirds. Every year more boxes go up and more families move in—this year just about all the boxes had three successful nestings—by August our skies were filled with hundreds of swallows in flight and no mosquitoes!

Cindy Lewis and Mark Holland can be reached at:
PO Box 116
Chiloquin, OR 97624
541-601-7670

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