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Learn about Fenimore’s feathered friends

Bill Fenimore, owner of Layton’s Wild Bird Center, loves birds. His fascination for his feathered friends started when he was four years old.

"That’s what my mother told me," Fenimore said during an interview with The Park Record. "I have always found them beautiful to enjoy and look at, and now, some 60-years later, I still feel that same passion."

Throughout the years, Fenimore has shared his feelings with anyone who would listen, and since the early 1990s, he has made it a point to hold a bird talk and walk at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter.

His next Swaner talk and walk is today, May 21, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Fenimore, who also is a Swaner board member, said Park City is unique when it comes to avian habitation.

"The area is a sub-alpine, wet-meadow type of environment," he said. "We have a whole host of birds that call this place home at different times of the year.

"We see Sandhill Cranes that are now sitting on nests who will soon be hatching out their colts," he explained. "We have set up nesting boxes for the mountain bluebird along the Mountain Bluebird Trail. We constantly see Yellow Warblers, Warbling Vireos, Red-wing Blackbirds, Yellow-headed blackbirds and White Crown Sparrows, all of which interact with the wet meadow and will spend spring and summer nesting here."

In addition, the area is home to golden eagles, red-tailed hawks and other raptors that feed on mice and large insects, he said.

"We have the Swainson’s Hawk that winters in Argentina and spends summers at the Swaner Preserve, and the rough-legged hawk which nests on the arctic tundra during the summer, spends winters here. So they occupy the same area at different times of the year. They are what we call niche birds. When one moves out, the other comes in."

Other niche birds that frequent Swaner are hummingbirds, Fenimore said.

"Four different hummingbirds can be seen," he said. "They use the nectar from the flowers and move away to Central America when the flowers here are no longer in season. It always amazes me that such tiny birds can travel so far."

Still, with all the various avian species, the Swaner Preserve is only a piece of a bigger picture when it comes to Utah’s relationship with birds, Fenimore said.

"Utah is situated in a wonderfully strategic location because it’s part of the Western Hemisphere’s Shore-Bird Reserve, which includes the Great Salt Lake," he said. "The Great Salt Lake is like a gas station. Similar to when you have to pull into a gas station to fill up the car to keep it running, the migratory birds shore birds and other waterfowl that travel from south America to the arctic tundra to nest, stop at Great Salt Lake for several weeks and replenish their fat reserves before they start the next leg of their migration.

"There is a bonanza of protein sources for them from the brine shrimp, brine flies and other invertebrates that live in and around the area."

There are about 440 different species of birds that one may encounter in Utah, depending on the season, Fenimore said.

"Right now, we’re at one of the peaks in terms of migratory birds," he said. "Last Thursday at Deseret Ranch, we saw 89 species of birds, and on Monday, just four days later, we saw 116 species."

Birds are also keyholes to a bigger world, Fenimore said.

"They help you see the different pieces of the web-of-life jigsaw puzzle that we call an ecosystem," he said. "We see how the birds interact with the environment and how the environment sustains them. For example, flowers attract hummingbird because the birds use their nectar and the birds, in turn, pollinate the flowers. It’s a marvelous web of life."

Fenimore hopes his talk at the Swaner reaches at least one person.

"Birding as a hobby is the fastest growing hobby in the United States, second only to gardening," he said. "The talks and walks encourage people to be interested in birds and as they pick that up, they learn other things such as planting native plants and protecting habitat and preserving open space.

"We can learn a lot from birds," he said. "One of the greatest ways that birds differ than man, is they can move into a landscape, build their houses and never leave the land marked. Their houses don’t detract from the rest of the surroundings, and when they leave the area, there is no scar or mark that’s left behind.

"Man moves in and lays down asphalt and builds all sorts of structures," he said. "Pretty soon the beauty is used up and destroyed."

Bill Fenimore will give a bird talk and walk at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter today, May 21, at 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Hiking shoes or mud shoes are recommended. For more information, visit http://www.wildbird.comlayton or http://www.swanerecocenter.org.


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