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Meet Jared Parks, ESLC’s resident birder

Since he was a little boy, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) Land Protection Specialist Jared Parks has been a birder, and now he brings his gift for birding to those wishing to join him Saturday, Oct. 13, for a bird walk on a preserved property.

“When I was young, my dad was a bird watcher, and he taught himself – and he taught us, as well,” Parks said. “We’d go out with him. He’d give my mom a break and take a little time off being a lawyer and take us out bird watching. I just kind of got hooked with being able to see them and be around birds – and they’re everywhere. Well, there’s less of them around now than there ever where, but they’re still a great teaching tool, because they’re always outside when you’re outside. So, it drew me to it, and I haven’t waivered from that path.”

Parks remembers helping with banding birds at the Kent County banding station as a boy, and up until accepting his role as land preservation specialist at ESLC, was banding frequently and regularly – almost every year.

Participating annually in Christmas and Easter counts, Parks can watch the population trends. He started participating in the National Audubon Society bird count in lower Kent County when he was about seven years old. Such counts require sitting still and focusing, practices that (along with fishing) taught Parks to have patience and to be able to stick with something – even through rain, when he can’t see much – and to enjoy what he does see.

Seems as though Parks’ time in nature has given him a special connection with animals. He has had some close encounters with deer, but his favorite encounter was with a bird. Once, he was sitting on the bench of a picnic table at his brother’s house near Chestertown, confiding in his brother about some things that had him feeling down. Out of the top of his eye, he saw a gray blur, and he looked up to see a catbird flying toward him. The catbird landed on Parks’ leg, looked up at him, and then flew off.

“It was almost like he knew I was sad and want to come over and check me out and see if I was OK,” Parks said.

Join Jared Parks for a bird walk at 8 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at a property preserved by ESLC in 2008. The 392-acre property is owned by Dorchester County, is preserved with an ESLC/MET easement and is managed in partnership with the adjacent Henson Boy Scout Reserve. The property rests on the banks of Marshyhope Creek and is best known for being home to a globally rare wetland complex known as Wade’s Savannah. Our walk will begin in mixed upland forest and will wind through old sand and gravel borrow pits, along riparian wetland forest, through dry forest associated with an ancient dune complex, and finally to Wade’s Savannah. The walk will be held right in the middle of the late fall migration period, when anything is possible —  from interesting local birds, such as the brown-headed nuthatch, to migrating warblers, thrushes, sparrows and hawks.

The cost for the walk is $15 for non-members, $10 for members, and $5 for children ages 6 to 12.  For $20, people can join Jared for the walk and receive a one-year membership to ESLC, which comes with exclusive discounts on many ESLC events, such as bird walks and night hikes.

All bird walk participants are encouraged to wear rubber boots and weather-appropriate clothing. Bug spray, a hat, sunscreen, and a full water bottle are also suggested. Don’t forget your binoculars!

If you are interested in joining us for one or both of these walks, please contact Jared Parks at jparks@eslc.org or 410-827-9756 ext. 167 or visit eslc.org for more information.

Jared’s Favorite Birds

Snowy owl – As a child, Parks had a book about snowy owls and a stuffed animal snowy owl, and something grabbed him about this big white owl that hunted lemmings. He’s only ever seen one – in the mid-2000s,on the Delaware Coast.

Common raven – The antithesis of the all-white snowy owl, the common raven is all black. Jared is drawn to its intelligence. Ravens have 26 different vocalizations they put together in different ways to communicated. They have reasoning and communication abilities that go far beyond what children are taught – that animals don’t have reason or emotions. Parks said he has learned, over time, how wrong that assumption is.

Warblers – Jared’s favorite bird group has more than 30 types in the United States, in all colors and shapes. His favorite in the group is the black-and-white warbler for its pattern and the way it acts.

American redstart – “a really spiffy looking bird.” The male is all black with patches of orange on and under its wings and on its tail, reminding Parks of what a Baltimore Oriole “should look like.”

Green heron – One of the smallest herons, Parks is charmed by its bouncing and by its intelligence, noting a video he saw once of a green heron learning to fish by watching humans throwing bread in a fish pond. Soon the heron was stealing bread, throwing it in the water and gobbling up the minnows that came to the surface.

Join us on Goodreads for a list of Jared’s favorite books about birds (and other topics).

Jared’s top-five playlist on Spotify. Look for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.

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