Bird watching

Local organization celebrates 50 years

Children may become birders while participating in Lahontan Audubon Society field trips to Washoe Lake.

Children may become birders while participating in Lahontan Audubon Society field trips to Washoe Lake.

Photo/Lahontan Audubon Society

For more information, visit

The Lahontan Audubon Society celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. That’s 50 years of conservation, preservation and education about birds, bird habitat and other wildlife in northern Nevada and some nearby California areas.

The chapter is part of the larger National Audubon Society and reaches many people with a wide membership and many public education events for children and adults, according to Kathy Oakes, board of trustees member, and communications and membership chair.

“We have approximately 1,200 members of our chapter because they’re members of the national society, and we have another almost 200 members who have joined just our local chapter and aren’t necessarily national members,” Oakes said. “So together we have almost 1,400 members. That’s a lot of people interested in birding.”

LAS plans to celebrate their anniversary with an ice cream social and bird walk on June 7 at the Galena Creek Visitor Center. The society has over 80 taxidermy mounts of birds at the visitor center that are also used by education committee chair and former vice president Alan Gubanich to teach kids about birds in classroom visits to various schools in the area. He also does field trips to Washoe Lake with students to teach them about birds, habitats and wildlife.

“These are field trips that we’ve been doing for—jeez, I don’t know how many years now, usually starting in mid-to-late April running through May and into the first, sometimes even the second week of June,” Gubanich said. “What we do is we talk to them about habitat, wetlands since Washoe Lake has got wetlands down there, and the kinds of birds that are there, and sometimes other aspects, like the plant life that is there if we have a plant expert that day. I rely on volunteers heavily to help me run these trips.”

Gubanich runs all the field trips and really enjoys them. There’s a few different activities that they do regularly on these trips. The two main activities are bird watching, where he lets the kids use binoculars to look at and identify birds, bird nests and related things in the area, and aquatic study, where the kids look at water samples under microscopes from the lake or wetlands to find and identify the tiny creatures in the water. They then talk about food chains and how birds eat many of these little creatures.

A new activity Gubanich particularly likes is having the kids build bird nests using a clothespin and piece of wood as their beak and foot. He has the kids look at intricate nests and try to make some for themselves.

“Then I talk about how, after they build the nest, they have to worry about a storm knocking it down or winds blowing the eggs out,” Gubanich said. “So I say, ’Here comes a windstorm!’ And I blow hard at each nest, trying to blow stuff out of it. They really get a kick out of it.”

Sometimes they have a botany expert come and talk about the plant life and habitats in the area, too. Gubanich just wants to get kids interested in birds and nature in general with his classroom visits and field trips to try to help with future conservation and preservation movements.

“I just like to get kids excited about being outdoors and particularly excited about birds and bugs,” Gubanich said. “I think [the field trips and classroom visits] wake kids up, make them aware of some things they may not be aware of and hopefully spark some interest in some kids going on to maybe become a naturalist, a biologist, an ornithologist, an entomologist or something in the future.”