City News

Bird Watching

by Sharon Vollmer | May 13, 2021

As featured in the May issue of CocoNEWS.

As well as being a knowledgeable source of information on horticulture-related topics, Scott Massey, our City Landscape Inspector, is an avid birder-watcher. Let’s ask him some questions about being a “birder,” as they call themselves.

How does one get started in birding?
“First, just go outside and listen.  Borrow a pair of good-quality binoculars and start looking around. I got started by my grandfather showing me how to identify birds when I was a kid in Tennessee. That led me to getting a field guide when I moved to Florida, so that I could identify the local birds in this area. Here’s a binocular tip for beginners: when you see a bird, keep your eyes on the bird and then raise the binoculars to your eyes, in order to be able to keep the bird in view.”

What’s your favorite part of this hobby?
“Being outdoors, seeing the beauty of nature, the colors, the sounds, and, also, since my wife shares this hobby, too, it’s a great way to spend time together. My wife started out as a butterfly watcher, when we first met, so now we like to keep an eye out for both of these “things-with-wings.”

How many species of birds have you documented?
Probably close to 200 different species. I keep a “Life List” of birds I’ve seen and identified. You can see a bird, but if you don’t know what it is, you can’t put it on your list.”

What was your most exciting find so far?
“Seeing Bald Eagles nesting and producing offspring, for the past 3 years, alongside the Turnpike near Boynton.”

What can we learn from bird-watching?
Birds, like butterflies, are what we call “indicator species,” which means if you see them thriving in the area, that’s an indication that things are going well. If the area can’t support birds and butterflies, this tells us we need to look at what’s going on. Are there too many pesticides? Has their habitat been destroyed? Has the water been polluted? We have to know those things, and make corrections, in order to support the birds and keep them coming back. The restoration efforts in the Everglades are a good example of this.”

Favorite educational website or book? is a great resource that my wife and I use all of the time.  It shows us what other birders are seeing in our area. This helps us know where to go and what birds we might see at our local parks and other natural areas.

Thanks, Scott. Happy Birding, everyone!

Butterfly Capital of the World