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Riderwood Club Participates in Cornell University Nature Project

April 26, 2012

SILVER SPRING, MD (April 26, 2012) -- Friends of all things feathered flock together each week at the Riderwood retirement community's Birders group. The group meets every Tuesday morning and walks around the 120-acre Silver Spring campus looking for birds, but their exploration doesn't end at the campus grounds. Once a month, the group ventures off campus to places like Brookside Gardens or the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Aside from enjoying the aesthetics of birds, every week the group records information about the birds they see and sends it to Cornell University as part of the citizen science project and e-bird list. "That way, people from all over the United States can tap into what we're seeing here at Riderwood and use it for their own research," said Becky Hedin, Riderwood resident and member of the Birders group. Her husband Alan diligently reports the weekly findings.
"Recording the findings is neat," Becky Hedin said. With the data, the group can graph the types and numbers of birds they see within a specific time period; this helps them notice trends such as the rise and decline of a species. Since the recording started, they've seen more than 100 different species of birds on campus.
The Hedins founded the Birders group when they first moved to Riderwood nine years ago and with the encouragement of their new neighbor, Anne Blackburn. Later, fellow resident Don Messersmith joined and helped expand the group.
The Birders use field guidebooks as well as Messersmith's expertise to identify the birds they see. Different markings determine different species. Even if birds share the same colors, unique markers on both wings and breast narrow down the identification.
In addition to the enjoyment of seeing birds in their natural environment, "It's good exercise," Messersmith said. "It's a good hobby for people that gets them outside and learning about and appreciating nature."
Group members needn't be expert birders. Amateurs are welcome. The group only requires an appreciation of all things feathered that fly.
The Hedins appreciate birds from the sunroom of their apartment home. They can watch birds frolic and play in a birdbath that Alan Hedin has had since he was an infant. They also use the patio garden outside their home as a place to plant blueberry bushes and other plants that attract birds.
"Seeing the birds actually come and enjoy the plants serves as a dual purpose," Becky Hedin said. The birds enjoy the fruits.
Birds spotted around the Riderwood campus
The great blue heron is a frequent campus visitor. The club saw three great blue herons during their most recent weekly bird walk.
The northern mockingbird is found throughout the year and can be seen perched on many of Riderwood's outdoor light posts. Its varied songs are a delight to many. The song sparrow and wood thrush share their wonderful songs when the club ventures outdoors.
The colorful northern cardinal and the American robin also make their rounds throughout the year.
Rare finds
Bald eagle
Great egret
Green heron
Hooded merganser
American coot
Sharp-shinned hawk
Cooper's hawk
Red-shouldered hawk
Spotted sandpiper
Caspian tern
Yellow-billed cuckoo
Hairy woodpecker
Yellow-bellied sapsucker
Alder flycatcher
Eastern phoebe
Hermit thrush
Yellow-rumped warbler
Orchard oriole
Eastern towhee