SILVER SPRING, MD---For Don Messersmith, a retired University of Maryland professor and leader of the Riderwood Birding Group, the hobby is about the "chase."
"There's nothing like being outdoors and identifying the unexpected with a rare bird sighting. It's really interesting," stated Dr. Messersmith, a resident of Riderwood, the Erickson Living retirement community in Silver Spring.
With warmer temperatures creeping closer, the fifteen participants of the Riderwood Birding Group are taking to the "chase" with weekly bird walks. Once per month, they visit local parks and nature settings such as Lake Artemesia, Brookside Gardens and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Most often, they walk along the 120-acre campus of Riderwood, which was designated a Wildlife Habitat by the Wildlife Habitat Council in 2004. At Riderwood, they commonly see great blue herons, kingfishers, cardinals and blue jays.
And on rare occasions, the residents have encountered bald eagles and even a yellow-billed cuckoo.
More than ever, technology enhances bird watching for these residents. High-powered spotting scopes and binoculars are now standards for bird walks, and digital cameras and iPhones provide a means of capturing unique moments and categorizing their sightings. There's even an iPod that plays bird songs for the group.
Dr. Messersmith has enjoyed birding for seventy years, beginning as a Boy Scout in Toledo, Ohio. "I saw a beautiful cardinal and was hooked," he described.
He has taken his passion for birding to advance the hobby to people of all ages. Dr. Messersmith has served as an instructor for university students and the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase for forty-eight years. As the oldest environmental organization in the Washington, DC region, the nonprofit organization seeks to link environmental education with conservation activities.
He also teaches classes for senior citizens in the Osher Program at Johns Hopkins University. For many years, he organized and led birding trips to every continent and over one hundred countries.
Soon, Dr. Messersmith will take a four-month, a cross-country excursion that includes stops in thirty-six states. "I'm on the quest to see birds that I've never seen before," he stated.
How would he encourage a person interested in birding?
"Don't be afraid to try something new. There are resources available to get you started such as the Audubon Naturalist Society, which holds weekly beginner bird walks," noted Dr. Messersmith.
"And take a friend to enjoy the experience," he noted. "One of the best parts of the Riderwood Birding Group is the socialization. The camaraderie is terrific, and we always learn something new about nature."
About Riderwood: Riderwood, managed and developed by Erickson Living, is a retirement community that provides worry-free living for America's seniors-the country's fastest growing population segment. Erickson Living's financial value and predictable monthly service fees provide residents across the country financial peace of mind. Comprehensive health and wellness services, integrated into our continuum of care, lead to demonstrated resident benefits. A robust complement of resident programs and facilities promote an engaged, fulfilling lifestyle that is reflected in resident satisfaction levels that exceed the industry average. For more information, please visit www.ericksonliving.com.