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January 26, 2014

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Bird feeder ignites passion for feathered friends in 15-year-old

In a dimly lit room, avid bird watchers gather for the annual Wabash Valley Audubon Society Photo Night at the Vigo County Public Library. One by one, presenters flipped through their photos to show off unique birds they saw throughout the year. When a presenter is stumped on the identification of a bird they photographed, the crowd works together to identify the bird. One photo in particular took these veteran birders longer than average to call out the identification.

From the middle of the meeting room, a quiet voice called out “it’s a … ” Emerging from the crowd was 15-year-old Amanda Beals. As folks looked in her direction, her father, Allen, said, “it wasn’t me, she is the one who knows them.”

It all started about five years ago when Allen noticed his wife enjoyed looking out the window at the birds and squirrels, so he bought her a bird feeder for her birthday in October. Little did they know the present was going to be something their daughter Amanda would get the most joy out of.

Their first visitor was a Carolina chickadee. “I was so excited to see it,” Amanda said. The very next day they had a red-bellied woodpecker. “That was what kind of set it, because here is this big, beautiful bird, somewhat zebra-striped, red-headed. It just kind of intrigued me,” she said. That Christmas she got her first field guide.

Passion spreads throughout family

The Beals’ yard is now dotted with an assortment of up to 10 bird feeders, depending on the season. Amanda spends on average six hours a week bird =watching. Out of the more than 800 species in North America, she can identify about 500 of them.

“I know most birds before I see them for the first time,” she said.

Her passion for the feathered friends has turned her parents into birders. Together, they travel around Indiana looking for birds.

“On a recent local bird count, Amanda couldn’t make it because she was sick,” Allen said. “Myself and another guy were on cell phones with her, saying help us out, identify this bird we are looking at and let us know what it is. We described it to her and she said it was a Lapland Longspur. We looked it up and sure enough it was.”

Their favorite places to visit are Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area near Linton and the Chinook Fish and Wildlife Area near Staunton. When they set out to go birding, they make it an all-day affair. They wake up early in the morning and don’t return home until sunset.

“When we go down to Goose Pond, we base it on where we want to eat for the day. We may hit Dairy Queen on the way down, grab some milkshakes, go bird for a little bit, then come back and eat in town, then go back out and do some other stuff. We try to make it as enjoyable as possible. It gives us something to do as a family together,” Allen said.

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