Friday, March 19, 2010

Accessible Birding with Joe

Spring is arriving early this year and the birds are on the move! Grackles and red-winged blackbirds are the most recent arrivals in western Massachusetts, following on the wingtips of turkey vultures. The robins have been congregating in my neighborhood all winter. Maybe they knew something all along. Everywhere I go, I'm keeping my eye out for new birds. As we move through spring, birds arrive from the southeastern US early on, then from far flung wintering grounds in Central and South America. Finding such birds can be a treat for the senses and a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors. The yellow warbler shown here in a photo taken by Joe is one of my favorites.

Birding can be an accessible activity, especially if you know of easy access locations where birds gather. One person who knows such places is Joe Superchi of Athol, Massachusetts. Joe is an avid birder who uses a wheelchair. He is a member of the Athol Bird and Nature Club and the Millers River Environmental Center. Each month Joe goes on an accessible birding adventure in the Athol area, as part of a public program offered by the Millers River Environmental Center. Athol is in north central Massachusetts between Greenfield and Gardner along Route 2. You can join him on the second Tuesday morning of the month from April through October and bird from 8 - 10am.

For close up viewing, Joe uses his scope on a tripod or his binoculars mounted on a monopod. The monopod is a great piece of equipment, essentially one leg of a tripod, that allows people with balance issues, hand tremors, weak grip or arms to use binoculars more easily and get more satisfaction out of their sightings. Not all binoculars mount onto monopods, so be sure to ask about this feature if you are shopping for optics. Joe's binoculars and monopod were made by Brunton, a well-known sporting goods company.

To bird with Joe, you'll need your own optical equipment. Several local birding experts drop in on Joe's program and can assist you with spotting. Programs meet at the Millers River Environmental Center in downtown Athol and provide an accessible van for group transport to a selected location. Give them a call at 978-248-9491 to sign up!

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