BEAUTY, BIRDS AND BINOCULARS
“I’ve got to take another look; that’s just spectacular,” said Tom Love, professor of anthropology and the department chairman,
admiring the dazzling yellow belly of a male Evening Grosbeak through a scope provided by Counselor John Kerrigan.
Besides the spoken adoration and the twitters and tweets of numerous birds, May 6 brought a cold, calm 7:30 a.m. for a bird-watching nature walk, organized by Love and Floyd Schrock, assistant director for international admission.
“The whole goal, or sort of technique, is to look for anomalies,” Love said. “There’s temptation to think that beauty resides only in the national parks or the spectacular places, but the whole world is a garden.”
Love said the impetus behind the nature walks, which he has helped organize since arriving at Linfield 27 years ago, is to introduce people to the beauty of nature, especially across campus.
This was the first walk in a while, Love said. And, although only Love, Schrock and Kerrigan showed up, they were was excited to start.
“These guys are walking encyclopedias of birding,” Kerrigan said, referring to Love and Schrock.
And the Thursday morning walk certainly proved that. Meeting on the steps of Pioneer Hall, conversations about birds and “birding” — birdwatching — instantly broke out. The sight of a European Starling perching on the trim of a Pioneer window provoked Love’s dislike, and he humorously called the species “the rats of the bird world.” Schrock agreed but wondered if it was actually a Eurasion Starling.
From the residence hall, the three traveled past Newby Hall toward President Thomas Hellie’s house, pausing to observe birds hiding in the rhododendrons and trees. Then, they walked down the small gravel hill toward the footbridge in the Cozine area. Camas flowers were in full bloom, laying a soft plane of light purple over the ground. Love said the patch is the second largest in the county and is a large portion of birds’ diet.
It was just past this footbridge that the group spotted the Evening Grosbeak through Kerrigan’s scope. After folding the scope’s tripod up, they took a right off the path to treck through the camas and long grass.
But the scope didn’t stay folded for long. Soon, they recognized the call of a bright orange Bullock’s Oriole and set up the scope to find it perching in the upper branches of a faraway tree.
“We knew what he was before he touched down because he gave it away with his call,” Schrock said, demonstrating the trained ear of a bird watcher.
Love said recognizing bird call intensifies the experience of birding.
“Once you know the calls, oh man, it all comes alive,” he said.
The observers moved on, suddenly coming out in the open field across from Walgreens. The trio slowly made its way down the steps along Highway 99, back along the Cozine footpath and re-emerged onto the main campus between Newby Hall and the greenhouse.
Love said they identified nearly 30 species of birds in just the hour it took to walk the loop
through Cozine. They will be out again at 7:30 a.m. next Thursday on the steps of Pioneer Hall for all who wish to join.
“I’m an avid birdwatcher; I have been since I was a kid,” Love said. “Birds are one way in to understanding and appreciating the natural world.”
As a youth, Love fostered a love of the outdoors by camping and hiking as an Eagle Scout and was fascinated with loggers and farmers who made their living off the land. His love of birding emerged from these roots, he said.
“[Birding] is kind of like hunting in that you have to know something about the organisms you’re trying to find,” Love said. “Only you’re collecting sightings, not shooting them.”
Kerrigan, on the other hand, said he kept birds as pets for about 20 years and became attracted to the hobby though them.
Schrock said his interest in birding stems from a desire to reconnect with what he calls the “real world.”
“Whatever I’m doing, I’m birding. I don’t so much go birding as I am birding,” Schrock said, emphasizing that it’s a sport that can be done anytime, anywhere.
In fact, he said he once photographed a bird from inside a plane while taxiing out of an airport in Bolivia.
“It’s a rush, you know?” Schrock said.
And you don’t have to travel to South America to experience the rush. Schrock described an amazing scene at the Emmaus House at about sunset.
“The swifts, they use the chimney for an overnight roost,” he said. “I thought there were at least 700 that went in that night.”
Besides the inherent beauty and curiosity of birding, Love and Schrock both mentioned the appeal of the community of birdwatchers.
“There’s kind of citizen-science side of it,” Love said. “[A] core of amateurs who are sophisticated enough to be making observations that tell us a lot about trends, environmental trends, of which birds are good indicators.”
He said these trends include global warming, pollution and even natural processes.
Love is an active member in the Audubon Society of Portland, which promotes the protection of and education about birds and wildlife and their habitats, according to the society’s website. In fact, he will be participating in an event May 8 called “Birdathon,”a fundraiser for the society.
Students interested in birding may want to look out for Love’s ENVS 030 class, which is all about birdwatching. He said he might offer it Spring 2012.
See bird. See bird fly.
Want to experience the beauty of birding, the splendor of camas and the magnificence of Cozine? Join Love and Schrock at next week’s nature walk at 7:30 a.m. May 13 on the steps of Pioneer Hall.
Kelley Hungerford can be reached at
Birdathon is a fundraiser for the Portland Audubon Society, the largest Audubon chapter in the United States, Love said. Love will lead a group of birders from Portland to Mt. Hood to Washington and Tillamook counties to Nehalem Meadows. The trip will last from 4 a.m. to about 11 p.m., and the group tries to see as many species as possible. Supporters pledge a certain amount of money for every species seen. For instance, 10 cents per species would equate a donation of $15 if the group sights 150 species, Love explained. To sponsor Love in the event, e-mail him at
firstname.lastname@example.org. He said he’d be thrilled even if just a penny per species was pledged.
Kelley Hungerford Managing editor