Traveling by chair to the woodland chorus
The Boothbay region’s visually impaired group (VIP) marked the start of its 19th year May 7. Without leaving their seats at the Community Center, the 11 VIP members and guests at the monthly meeting had a field trip into the deep woods, thanks to Joan Stark, the Hadley Institute for the Blind, and Cornell University.
Stark has been a member of the group since it was founded. She suggested the trip as a perfect way to usher in spring. “One of the losses in my life from when I lost my vision was not being able to recognize the birds around me,” she said. So around 10 years ago, she took a course in identifying birds by their songs. The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Winnetka, Illinois offered the course.
“I wanted to be able to sit in my yard and know who’s around,” she explained.
The course, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, was like learning a language, she said. There were five different field trips recorded with various bird songs. More than 76 different species are presented in the locations that include a city, the suburbs, field and farm, the deep woods and the shore.
“I loved the course and have wanted to share it with others for a long time,” Stark said.
Stark chose the deep woods birding trip to share with the group. Wells Moore helped Stark transfer the sounds from an older cassette recording to a digital recording and the meeting room came alive with the glorious sounds of birds calling to each other in the forest.
The human narration took everyone into the woods and the birds were center stage, starting with the wood thrush’s flute-like phrases and the red eyed vireo, described as having a continuous song of short melodic phrases.
These were quickly followed by the oven bird (loud and emphatic), the eastern wood pewee, the pileated woodpecker, the rose breasted grosbeak, the robin, the scarlet tanager and the blue jay.
When the trip ended, everyone agreed it had been a different and delightful addition to the meeting.
The VIP group meets monthly to share information that helps members find new ways to adjust to new or existing challenges associated with loss of vision. New members are always welcome and encouraged.
Among the programs started by the VIP group are the free weekly reading service which provides a recorded reading of the Boothbay Register and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens “Garden of the Five Senses.” Both programs result from efforts by Wells and Mollie Moore, Southport residents and VIP group members.
The VIP group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Community Center from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call Joan Stark at 633-2498 or Mollie Moore at 633-3810.
Information about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can be found at: https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/