Tahlequah Daily Press

April 26, 2013

It’s for the birds

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The “bluebird of happiness” brought Joyce and the late Don Varner together, and may even be responsible for the inception of the area chapter of the Audubon Society.

Today is National Audubon Day, and Indian Nations Audubon Society founding member Joyce Varner said the bluebird is probably her favorite fowl.

“Bluebirds are what brought Don and I together,” said Varner. “It’s important to know that eastern bluebirds nest in boxes. Well, before Don and I were married, he had a bluebird [box] trail that ran along the country roads in our home county. Our Friday night dates were checking those bluebird boxes. So, we’ve been ‘birding’ since Don was in high school.”

John James Audubon, 1785-1851, was America’s foremost ornithological illustrator. According to the National Audubon Society, after studying drawing in Paris under the French painter Jacques Louis David, Audubon struggled for years to make a living from his art. In 1820, he began a flatboat excursion down the Mississippi River to seek out new varieties of birds to paint. Eventually, he collected enough portraits to publish “Birds of America.”

George Bird Grinnell, a student of Audubon’s wife, Lucy, became the editor of Forest and Stream magazine and in 1886 organized the Audubon Society for the student and protection of birds. Today, its members honor Audubon on his birthday, April 26.

Varner said she and her husband held similar interests with two other couples: Dr. Everett Grigsby and his wife, Doris, of Tahlequah; and Jim and Marion Norman from Muskogee.

“I suppose you could say we were the founding members of INAS, back in 1978,” said Varner. “Today, the organization has about 30 active members, and over 200 members on our mailing list.”

Varner said INAS caters to all sorts of birding enthusiasts, from the hobbyist to the researchers.

“We carry out various surveys, where we are contributing to scientific knowledge,” said Varner.

“We report our findings back to the National Audubon Society. That’s why I think birding is such a neat hobby. You can participate on so many levels. You can watch birds out the back window or take it further and study habits and conduct research.”

The Indian Nations Audubon Society is active throughout the eastern part of Oklahoma and has members from Broken Bow and Broken Arrow, but most are from the Muskogee, Fort Gibson, Hulbert, Tahlequah, Welling, Vian and Gore areas.

Martha Evans, a Vian resident, is new to birding, and recently became a member of INAS and coordinates the group’s newsletter.

“We participate in activities such as maintaining the Bluebird Trails at Sequoyah and Tenkiller State Parks, Christmas Bird Counts at the Fort Gibson and Sequoyah Wildlife Reserves, Broken Bow and the Red Slough, and spring and fall migration bird walks at the Canebrake,” said Evans. “We welcome anyone to participate in those activities.”

Other INAS activities include summer bird-banding, and waterfowl surveys at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Reserve, eagle watches at the Fort Gibson dam, bird counts at the Nickel Preserve and Tall Grass Prairie of the Nature Conservancy, and interactive children’s exhibits at the Illinois River Festival.

Varner said INAS also participates in the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program, which is a continent-wide network of hundreds of mist-netting stations.

Analyses of the banding data from the stations provides information relating to the ecology conservation and management of North American bird populations, and the factors responsible for changes in their populations.


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