Editor’s note: Rick Hollis of rural North Liberty, is past president and newsletter editor for the Iowa City Bird Club.
By Rick Hollis, community contributor
According to most experts, being mentored is the best way to learn just about anything.
If you are interested in bird-watching, as with many other things, the problem always has been how to find a mentor. There are several ways in the Iowa City area to find a ready-made mentor for bird-watching.
The Iowa City Bird Club “Beginning Birder Course” with field trips is aimed at beginning birders. The University of Iowa Alumni Association’s Senior College also offers field trips and Iowa City Bird Club has open field trips throughout the year.
For the past 30 years, I have taught beginning birder’s classes, the past 10 as part of the team-taught course held by the Iowa City Bird Club’s “Beginning Birder Course” in conjunction with the Johnson County Conservation Board.
Evening sessions are held at Kent Park’s Community Education Center. Topics have varied from year to year. We generally have six or more evening sessions.
The nice thing about Kent Park is you can be in a “birdy” place before the class starts and sometimes step outside at intermission and hear birds. The evening topics generally cover things like field techniques and gear and identification by sight and sound, among other areas.
In addition to the evening classes, we have beginning birder field trips on weekends. This year we went to Cone Marsh, Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area, MacBride Nature-Recreation Area, Waterworks Park and Hickory Hill Park.
There is a minimal fee for the evening sessions to cover costs. The beginners’ field trips are open to anyone free of charge.
The Iowa City Bird Club also has numerous field trips and beginners always are welcome. No matter your level, there almost are always people who know more than you and people who know less than you.
For a number of years the ICBC has run “Weekday Warbler Walks” in Hickory Hill Park for three or four weeks in the heart of spring migration. The trips leave from the shelter at the Conklin Street entrance at 6:30 a.m.
The leaders are excellent birders with good ID skills, good ears and good people skills. The goal of these trips is to see lots of migrating warblers and to help each other learn to identify them.
The first and third Wednesday morning of each month there is a bird walk at Kent Park. We meet at the Conservation Education Center to take a 1-2 hour walk, looking at birds and flowers and whatever crosses our path.
The UI Alumni Association’s Senior College, included a birding course, is held at Kent Park’s Community Education Center. There are field trips every session followed by sit-down sessions.