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Meeting with the Wintu Aubudon Society

02/01/2007 01:21PM ● By Brandi Barnett

Birds of a Feather

February 2007
By Michael O'Brien

Birding for me has always been a solitary, therapeutic pursuit. It allows me to live in and listen to nature in an increasingly unnatural world. But birding is also more than just a casual undertaking. It is a serious, extremely rewarding hobby that inspires the desire to learn more. One of the best ways to learn more is to hang out with people who really know. Finding people to hang out with who really know birding is the reason why I recently made my acquaintance with the Wintu Audubon Society.

Nationally, the Audubon Society has worked for over 100 years to “connect people with nature,” and to promote birding and bird conservation. Named after pioneering bird artist John James Audubon (1785-1851), the society was officially founded in 1905. Locally, Audubon Society chapters complement the national organization by working to protect birds and promote birding in specific geographic areas. The Wintu Audubon Society is a local chapter that focuses on Shasta County birds, birding education and issues.

To begin my relationship with this organization, I attended a board meeting held at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. I was invited to attend by Tim Boehme, Wintu’s publicity director. My next experience was at the second Tuesday of the month (excluding June, July, and August) 7 p.m. general meeting, also conducted at Turtle Bay. All chapter members are encouraged to attend this gathering, where local and national business is conducted prior to the highlight of these events: a feature program focusing on meaningful birding topics or locations in which to find your favorite or rare species.

Ginger Boland from North State Resources spoke to us this night on her work studying yellow-billed magpie – a species exclusive to oak savannah habitat in Central and Northern California.We have them here in Redding. She shared some fascinating aspects of this bird’s life and how it survives predation while breeding. She also discussed the frightening effect West Nile Virus is having on this species. Most have read reports of dead American crows being found, killed by WNV. What most do not know is that yellow-billed magpie is a member of the family Corvidae, to which American crow also belongs. WNV seems to attack this family most viciously. So we face a real possibility of losing a large portion of our yellowbilled population. Ginger explained how we could help by reporting our sightings of yellow-billed magpie to this information we “citizens” were given an opportunity to contribute to science and the saving of a Northern California bird.

More profoundly, this opportunity of involvement revealed the power in belonging to such an organization. This group is not just about watching birds and talking about the latest sighting of the rare “east Mongolian wombat-eating warbler.” These are people who care intensely about their hobby, and are caretakers of their craft for the benefit of generations to come.

A few days after this meeting, I sat down with Boehme to ask him some questions about the Wintu Audubon Society. “Why should people join?” I asked. Tim responded, “To make a contribution and to learn!” It seems that Tim joined just a few months ago himself. “I am learning something new, and about something I always wanted to know about, but never took the time to learn.”

How doesWintu support people who belong? “The society provides what to do and where to go for people who want to learn and do more in birding. It provides association, a sense of belonging, and education.”

Wintu publishes a monthly newsletter (“Chirp-N-Chatter”). A posting site is maintained on the web to keep members up to date on recent sightings and events. The Wintu web site lists all the best spots to bird in Shasta County and surrounding area.

For more information about the Wintu Audubon Society, visit