Friday, July 11, 2014

Group enjoys friendship that is for the birds

Lackawanna Audubon Society mixes bird watching, fellowship

February 22. 2014 10:47PM
By Geri Gibbons Times Leader correspondent

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For more information about the Lackawanna Audubon Society, can call President Bill Speare at 570-586-8483 or access their website at

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HARVEYS LAKE — Members of the Lackawanna Audubon Society share more than a love of birds and nature.

The group also shares a deep sense of friendship and passion that has evolved over decades. That was evident as members gathered at the Lakeside Skillet Saturday prior to a bird-watching trip around Harveys Lake.

Derry Bird said the organization is unique in that each member seems to have a special talent or skill benefiting the entire group.

“We have ornithologists, etymologists, photographers and other experts,” he said. “Each perspective bringing a broader understanding to the entire group.”

The society is an independent organization centered in Lackawanna County, originally called the Scranton Bird Club. In existence since 1915, many current attendees have been involved for over 30 years.

On Saturday, a hearty breakfast was followed by a drive around Harveys Lake looking for birds — some rare and some common to the area and the season. Mother Nature fully cooperated with temperatures approaching 50 degrees and snow surrounding the icy lake, providing the perfect setting for bird watching.

Participants stressed that in addition identifying such birds as cardinals and blue birds by sight, many members identify birds by their calls.

Karen Hiller, an avid “birder” since 13, said she will often recognize a bird by its song, even if she doesn’t see it.

Birder Lois Jean Gallagher also enjoys becoming familiar with the sound of various birds, saying it gives her an additional tool to enjoy bird watching.

The group also sometimes uses a listening devise to better hear calls of the birds they come upon.

Member Jim Montgomery is a published botanist and brings a sense of context to the birds within their environment.

Jon Thomas describes the group’s gatherings as often being “like a workshop,” an opportunity to exchange information and learn new techniques.

Many members of the group have favorite memories of unusual birds they have spotted.

Bird especially remembers travelling to Hazleton to see a snowy owl. Native to Canada, the bird migrates south when there is a shortage of food.

Hiller fondly remembers seeing a scissor-tailed flycatcher, native to Texas.

As Gene Gallagher sat amidst approximately a dozen birders gathered, he called them a “bunch of great people,” many of whom he had known for over 30 years.

Gallagher said both the hobby and the society provided opportunity to be involved in outdoor activity, exercising both the mind and the body.

He said he appreciated the mild weather on such a beautiful day, but added “birds are out in all kinds of weather.”

Bill Speare, a two-term president of the group, said the society looks forward to continuing to gather, bird watch and learn from each other. The group usually meets every other Saturday, sometimes locally and sometimes travelling to areas of special interest to attendees.

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