A University of Tampa field ornithology class recently visited two Valrico homes for bird watching.

On February 17, the University of Tampa’s field ornithology class took a field trip to Valrico. The class is designed to use encounters with wild birds in nature to teach upper-level science majors, many of which are preparing for careers as professional biologists, about the biology of birds. Every week, they embark on a four-hour trip to a park or nature preserve in the Tampa Bay area.

Associate professor of biology Dr. Mark McRae brought the class to Sandy Reed’s yard in Bloomingdale because she is well known within the local birdwatching and bird conservation community.

“By being able to visit Sandy’s yard, I could teach my students about vagrancy in birds, as well as the role that backyard bird feeders can play in modern bird conservation,” explained Dr. McRae. “I also very much wanted my students to meet Sandy so that they could learn about the Tampa Audubon Society. But most importantly, I wanted them to meet a passionate individual like Sandy who has had such a positive impact on bird conservation and biology here in Central Florida.”

Dr. McRae believes that conservation of native species within the suburbs is important.

“Whenever I teach my field ornithology course, I spend one day demonstrating to my students ways people can transform their patch of the suburbs into a space that can be valuable for the conservation of our native species. As suburbs continue to expand in our area, this topic is always increasing in importance,” Dr. McRae said.

Reed teaches backyard birding classes with USF’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She is a long-term member and leader in the Tampa Bay Audubon Society. She is also the administrator of the Hillsborough County Birds Facebook group.

This trip marks the second time Dr. McRae has taken his class to Reed’s yard. This year, they also visited Steve Backes’ yard in Valrico.

“Steve has transformed his yard into a patch of habitat that draws in surprising numbers and a diversity of species of birds that can be observed up close. His experience with the study and conservation of hummingbirds has been significant,” Dr. McRae said.

For those interested in backyard birding, Reed highly recommends the booklet “Planting a Refuge for Wildlife,” which can be found at https://myfwc.com/viewing/habitat/refuge/.

For more birding information, check out the Tampa Audubon Society’s website at www.tampaaudubon.org and the Hillsborough County Birds Facebook group.

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