Bill Fenimore enjoys sharing his love of backyard birding
May 1, 2015
For the past few years, Bill Fenimore, board member of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and owner of Wild About Birds Nature Center in Layton, has given a backyard bird program at the Swaner EcoCenter.
The event features a short lecture, a bird tour and a book signing. Fenimore will return to the EcoCenter on Tuesday, May 5, and he’s looking forward to the presentation.
"We usually get a nice turnout and it’s always a joy to go up to commiserate with the folks in Park City," Fenimore said during an interview with The Park Record. "I always offer to answer questions that anyone in the group might have, and there are always a few interested in learning one thing or another about a bird."
Some of the answers can be found in the books that Fenimore has written. So far, he has published 18 books in his "Backyard Birds" series, and Fenimore’s goal is to write a book for all 50 states.
The Utah book, titled "Backyard Birds of Utah: How to Identify and Attract the Top 25 Birds," is already in its third printing, he said.
"Essentially, I wrote that book years ago when I tried to find a book I could sell to my customers who would come into the Nature Center, because I couldn’t find one that was dedicated to backyard birds," said Fenimore, who makes his home in Farmington. "There were lots of field guides, but they had way too much information for the average backyard birder, so I thought I had to write this book."
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With each book he writes, Fenimore learns new things about his avian friends.
"That’s what was great about backyard birding," he said. "You never feel like you know it all and you also learn from other people or from observations of the critters themselves."
Fenimore enjoys sharing that information with others.
"One of the fun things about the book is that it teaches people different ways to look at a bird," he said. "People can start to tell the difference from one sparrow to another type of sparrow, and then the light bulb goes off in their heads and from there, they will never be able to see birds the same way again."
When choosing which birds would be highlighted in the book, Fenimore wanted to spotlight the birds most likely to show up in any given backyard.
"I selected the birds through extensive research including bird counts we hold through the Audubon Society at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology," he said.
One of the bird counts he used was the Christmas Bird Count that the Audubon Society has been doing 112 years.
"It was originally a counter project to the winter hunt," Fenimore said. "There were some people who thought it would be fun to go and count the birds rather than shoot everything."
Thanks to the long-running county, researchers are able to see changes in the data.
"For example, if you wanted to see a lesser goldfinch back in the day, you’d have to go down to Washington County in the St. George area," Fenimore said. "Today, it is a regular backyard bird at my home in Farmington. So they have expanded their range further north."
The data also shows birds that have shrunk their range.
"When you pay attention to the results, the changes can show us if there is something out of sync," Fenimore said.
The birds in the book are organized by size, so the smallest birds will be in the front and the larger ones will be in the back, to help people make headway in identifying a bird.
"Invariably, we have someone who will come into the Nature Center and ask us about a bird they have seen in their yard," Fenimore said. "We have a series of illuminations that we can show them to identify the bird, and it’s a fun process to see people gum on to that concept."
There is also a map that shows when and where the birds are regularly seen in the state, he said.
"The map also tells if the birds are migratory or here year-round," Fenimore said.
Another feature is the book gives suggestions of how to attract birds.
"It’s fun helping people create little habitats in their backyards," he said.
Every morning Fenimore explores his own backyard to see if new birds have come to visit.
"I had evening grosbeaks in my backyard this morning," he said. "They are a bird that I’ve have seen half-a-dozen times in 25 years living here. It’s a wandering bird and every once in a while they’ll just show up."
He also had some cedar waxwings, which are the birds on the cover of the Utah book, visit as well.
"They are gorgeous birds," Fenimore said. "The interesting thing about them is they don’t eat seed. They’re fruit eaters and eat berries or crabapple blossoms."
The Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will present birding expert Bill Fenimore who will give a presentation about local birds and lead a bird walk on Tuesday, May 5, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Fenimore will sign his book, "Backyard Birds of Utah: How to Identify and Attract the Top 25 Birds," after the presentation. For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.