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St. Louis - Helping Florida Discover It's Own Wildlife
Commentary by: Elaine Viets
Aired March 19, 2008

Like many baby boomers, I’ve tried weight-lifting and racquetball. Rollerblading looked like a quick trip to the emergency room, so I avoided that craze. But I loved something just as risky – motorcycles.

Now there’s one more boomer trend: birdwatching.

Boomers are flocking to birdwatching. Sixty-seven percent of the population say they’ve gone to a place more than three miles from home to look for birds and wild life.

Bird watching is the second biggest leisure activity after gardening. Gardening was good enough for Beatle George Harrison. But now the Woodstock generation may wind up like Miss Jane on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

The boomer interest in bird watching often starts in the dead of winter, when we put out a bird feeder with suet and seeds. First, we notice the little brown bird that’s adapted so well to St. Louis, the Eurasian tree sparrow. Next, we’re watching more colorful cardinals and blue jays. Then we’re making field trips to see the hundreds of bald eagles in the winter near Alton and Clarksville.

Then we try to find a squirrel-proof feeder, which doesn’t exist. Before you know it, we’re photographing the red-breasted nuthatch and the purple finch. A little more time, and we have our own binoculars and a book called “Birds of St. Louis.”

Intrepid St. Louis birders are setting records in Florida. Last, St. Louisans on a birdwatching trip had the first ever sighting of white wagtail in Florida.

It makes me proud to know that St. Louisans helped Florida discover its own wild life.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets


Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.

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