Saturday, Jan 04 2014 11:57 PM

Man undeterred in his quest for birds

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    A February shot of Sandhill Cranes at the Pixley Wildlife Refuge in Tulare County. The refuge is just 45 miles north of Bakersfield.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    A Ferruginous Hawk takes flight near Yokohl Valley Road east of Exeter in Tulare County.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary Lindquist

    A White-faced Ibis roams the Kern National Wildlife Refuge in Kern County.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary Lindquist

    Burrowing Owl at the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge in Tulare County, taken in November.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    A Reddish Egret spreads its wings at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve north of Huntington Beach, taken in November.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    A Greater Prairie Chicken in Mullen, Neb., taken in April.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    A Snowy Owl from Boundary Bay in British Columbia, Canada, in January of last year.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    Wilson's Snipe, which keeps to wet, grassy spots, is spotted in Anchorage, Alaska, in May.

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    By Photo courtesy of Gary A. Lindquist D.V.M.

    As soon as Gary Lindquist got word in July that the Rufous-necked Wood Rail wandered into New Mexico, thousands of miles north of its home, he hopped a plan to Albuquerque. He managed to get there just in time. "That bird was there for four days or so."

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BY JENNIFER SELF Californian lifestyles editor jself@bakersfield.com

Even though he was sick and hardly up for a two-hour-plus car ride, Gary Lindquist has been a birder long enough to know that when you get a sighting of an ivory gull feeding on a seal carcass in Pismo Beach, you grab the camera and go.

Native to the Arctic Circle, the way -wayward bird is a rare sight in California, and context is everything to a birder. If, say, you happen to see an ivory gull while vacationing on a sheet of ice, no big deal. But if you find yourself on the Bakersfield Riviera, shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of tourists wolfing down fish and chips as they gape at the lost bird, the moment becomes magical.

Related Info

'Behind the Feathers: Ways to Attract Birds to Your Yard'

What: A presentation by avid birder Gary Lindquist, presented by the Kern Audubon Society

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Kern County Superintendent of Schools office, 1300 17th St.

Admission: Free

Information: 322-7470 or kernaudubonsociety.org

Avid birder Gary Lindquist "has the noisiest house in the neighborhood," thanks to the flocks of birds he gets.

"I've had over 40 birds in feeders at one time. If you walk too close to a shrub, 50 birds will come out."

The expert shared some thoughts on how to make a variety of birds feel welcome in your yard during a phone interview Monday from his Visalia home.

As if to prove his mastery of the subject, Lindquist casually mentioned watching a hermit thrush lolling in his bird bath -- "rare for downtown Visalia."

Water

"You'll attract birds with water than all the food in the world. They need the water for bathing and drinking."

Lindquist has a large landscape boulder that has a water-filled dimple on top, with a dripper overhead.

Food

Lindquist predicts he spends $20 to $30 a week on food during the winter months. In addition to a variety of seeds, he and his wife spread dried meal worms, peanuts, suet and fruit among their seven feeders.

Shelter

Where you put the food is every bit as important as the food itself, Lindquist said. "There are some birds that will starve to death looking up at a feeder." Providing shelter protects the birds during their most vulnerable moments, when they're feeding.

So there, just yards from the successful completion of his quest, was Lindquist -- having been driven by his patient wife, well-acquainted with the moment's-notice nature of her husband's preoccupation. But then on their way down to the shore, he let his focus waver, stopping to chat with a birder he knew from Fresno, who, like Lindquist, beat a path to the coast for a glimpse of the delicate white creature.

That courtesy would prove costly: For while he was shooting the breeze, the gull took wing and was gone, presumably in search of the nearest iceberg.

"We waited there for hours. When I see the lady I stopped to talk to, she still apologizes to me to this day.

"You get heartbreakers all the time. We walked for two days in Florida once looking for a La Sagra's flycatcher. Walked and walked and then had to go home. We never found it."

Indeed, the distance between disappointment and discovery in the birding world is a knife's edge, said Lindquist, a retired small-animal veterinarian who traveled 7,300 miles around the Midwest last year, just one of several birding trips he took in 2013.

"We made a trip to New Mexico in July to see a rufous-necked wood rail. It's the only time it's ever been seen in the United States. Birders, we chase things around."

Lindquist realizes most amateur bird watchers can't -- and don't wish to -- match his level of dedication. But frankly they don't have to. Kern County, with its sprawling and diverse terrain, is chock-full of interesting birds. If you'd like to attract a few to your backyard, Lindquist has some suggestions he'll share during a presentation Tuesday before the Kern County Audubon Society. The public is welcome and admission is free to the photo-heavy PowerPoint presentation.

"People usually have to shut me off at these talks. It's like someone said once, 'You ask me what time it is and I'll tell you how to build a watch.' I wear people out all the time."

But Virginia Dallas-Dull, who books speakers for the local club, can assure potential attendees that every effort is made to get the audience out by 9, no matter how freewheeling and entertaining the discussion proves to be. Dallas-Dull heard about Lindquist, an avid birder for 50 years, from a member who saw a presentation he gave to the Tulare Audubon Society.

"I could tell he was really personable when I talked to him on the phone," the coordinator said. "He'll take questions and show photos, which is usually a big component of the presentations."

Indeed, Lindquist said taking photos, a passion for the last decade or so, has changed the way he approaches birding.

"Most birders are listers -- they list birds they've seen. As such, it's a pursuit. They see a bird, check if off and are thrilled. But with my camera, I'll stick around a few days.

"In New Mexico, for the rufous-necked wood rail, we met a guy who drove 18 hours, saw it walk out of the reeds, checked it off, and drove 18 hours back."

Lindquist's fascination with birds began during study hall while he was a school boy in Arkansas.

"I've always been a nature geek, and collected anything that crawled, flew -- snakes, insects. I saw a bird field identification guide at school: 'Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds.' Any time Dad would give us a break from farming, I would grab the field guide and my binoculars -- I had the cheapest you could buy at Sears -- and I taught myself to be a birder."

After college, Lindquist and his family moved out west, first to the Bay Area, and he discovered California is a "phenomenal" place for birds.

"We've got the biggest bird list, but I love the Northwest -- Washington, Canada."

The decision to open his own veterinary practice relocated the Lindquist family to Visalia years ago. As far as birds go, he calls the Central Valley "fair" as a whole, with the exception of Kern County, which "covers so many habitats and has around 400 species."

And there's no better way to explore the area than on the regularly scheduled Audubon field trips, said Dallas-Dull, who has been a member of the local group for about seven years.

"You really get to know Kern County when you're a member because you go to places you didn't know existed."

Lindquist also endorsed the club, part of the nonprofit National Audubon Society, founded in 1905 for the study and conservation of birds.

"People don't look," Lindquist said. "They drive but they don't open their eyes to the amazement around them. Take a natural history class at the local college, get an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a field guide and go to your local park or your own backyard."

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