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A bird's-eye view of life

Published Oct. 1, 2005

(ran CI edition)

Betty Smyth has spent thousands of hours bird-watching over the course of about 45 years.

Whether vacationing in Maine as a young child or relaxing in the Caribbean as an adult, Smyth said she always toted her binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse of a species of bird she had not seen before.

Smyth, a member of the Florida Ornithological Society and the Citrus County National Audubon Society, said she credits her grandmother with sparking her interest in the outdoors.

"In the summers my grandmother taught us about trees, flowers, rocks, and one year she taught us about birds. From this I became very interested in natural history and the outdoors," she said.

Bird-watching, in particular, took.

"I watched birds until I got in high school. But after I got married and had children . . . I started watching them again," she said.

While living in Massachusetts, Smyth had the opportunity to volunteer several days a week at the Manomet Bird Observatory.

Smyth's job was to identify, weigh, band and then release birds that were captured in nets along the property's trails. "It was a challenge at first to identify the birds . . . because there are over 700 species of birds in North America," she said.

Smyth said she has seen about 580 species of birds. Her favorite, she said, is the warbler family.

"They are tiny little beautifully colored birds that flit up into the treetops. They were my first love and still are my favorite."

When Smyth moved to Citrus County she continued her bird-watching from the back yard of her home.

Since moving to Florida, Smyth has reported her findings to the Florida Field Naturalist publication. "What is interesting," she said, ". . . is that I have sent in some reports on birds that have never been reported on yet in Citrus County." Smyth also recently contributed information for the book, A Birder's Guide To Florida, by Bill Pranty.

Smyth, who also is intrigued with the migrations of birds, said she is planning a trip this spring to Point Pelee in Ontario, a "hot spot" for bird-watching during migration in North America.

"Bird-watching has really enriched my life, it adds another dimension when you travel," she said.