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March 9, 2013

Experts offer tips for local bird-watching

For some, it’s a way to get hands-on with the study of natural science. For others, it’s a way to bring beauty into their lives. And for many, it’s a social activity that brings them together with other like-minded individuals. Whatever the reason, bird-watching is an activity with widespread appeal, including among many area residents. 

The cool, crisp weather of fall sent many local birds on their annual journey south, but some local species, such as cardinals, starlings and chickadees, remain during the cold months. The food they have been getting from local feeders has been a vital source of nourishment. In addition, feeders bring birds right up to a person’s living room or kitchen window, close-up and personal. 

For some bird watchers, their interest takes them beyond the backyard in search of more diverse species. 

Father Michael Cambi, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Stamford, has been watching birds nearly all his life.

“My father turned me on to bird-watching when I was a kid,” he said. “Pretty early I got my first pair of binoculars.”

Cambi said he doesn’t regard himself as a bird expert, but he does take his hobby seriously. He keeps heaters running in his backyard in cold weather to welcome visiting birds, and often takes birding trips alone or with a friend. 

He said he likes to observe and identify birds, with a keen interest in raptors (hawks, eagles, vultures, and owls), and an appreciation of warblers. Cambi said there are hundreds of different warbler songs, of which he knows many, but is far from mastering the whole list. 

Identification depends on visual and hearing cues. In Cambi’s case, the skill is mostly visual.

“Some (birds) I can recognize by their in-flight profile and by the way they flap their wings while flying,” he explained. “I can recognize some by their songs. But my brother is much better at that than I am. He has a CD that he listens to over and over again.”

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