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Bird watchers kick off 2013 with New Year's Day hike

People look for birds on Nelson Lake during a bird walk on New Year's Day at Dick Young Forest Preserve.
People look for birds on Nelson Lake during a bird walk on New Year's Day at Dick Young Forest Preserve.

BATAVIA – A pair of great horned owls were among the first birds added to the 2013 lists of some avid bird watchers during an annual New Year's Day bird walk in Batavia.

The two owls were spotted in a grove of pine trees as bird watchers with the Kane County Audubon Society hiked through Dick Young Forest Preserve on Tuesday morning. Equipped with binoculars, cameras, layers of clothing and hand-warmers, about 20 people took a brisk hike around Nelson Lake, stopping occasionally to listen for chirping or even spot a few coyotes.

Rhonda Nelson has been leading the annual New Year's Day bird walk for several years. She said many people keep lists of the all the birds they see throughout the year and start their lists during the annual bird walk.

"I grew up in this area and it's amazing all the birds you see here," she said, adding that her life list of birds consists of 438 species.

Bob Andrini, president of the Kane County Audubon Society, said the organization hosted 82 bird walks last year and noted there are hundreds of different species of birds in Kane County for bird watchers to find.

He said peak bird-watching times are usually during the spring and fall migrations.

Jon Duerr's world list of birds, which is comprised of birds that he has spotted in other countries, includes 2,800 different species. Duerr, a St. Charles resident, said his national list includes 630 birds, and his Illinois list includes 350 birds.

He said he loves bird watching because it gets him outside. And keeping track gives him goals to meet.

Picking a favorite bird is nearly impossible, he said, but he finds the black rail – a nocturnal bird that lives in wetlands – to be one of the more interesting species.

"There are so many beautiful, unique ones out there," he said. "The black rail is so mysterious, unusual and cryptic."

Liz Copeland of Montgomery has been bird watching for years, but she said she still feels she has a lot to learn.

"I'm at the tip of the iceberg," she said. "... It's like learning a foreign language. They're so complex and intricate. They're fascinating creatures."

Nelson said new bird watchers should pick up a good field guide to help identify birds. She advises those new to bird watching to be patient, even if unique birds don't surface right away.

"The more you look at those [common] birds, the more you notice the unusual birds," she said.

Theresa LeCompte of Aurora said she got into bird watching about three years ago and started keeping track of all the birds she saw last year. She said she enjoys the camaraderie of spending time with other bird watchers and, of course, seeing birds.

"Birds are fascinating," she said. "You see a bird you've never seen before and then you're starting to see birds you never knew were there the whole time."

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