By Nancy Allen
A St. Marys woman with a love of nature is spearheading an effort to start a local bird-watching club.
The group held its first meeting last month and will hold another on March 11 at 7 p.m. at the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention and Visitors Bureau, 900 Edgewater Drive in St. Marys.
Jill Bowers, known by many local folks as the “eagle lady,” said she has thought about starting such a club for a number of years, but was too bashful to do so until now.
Bowers has a lifelong interest in birds and is a volunteer eagle watcher for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). She currently is observing a pair of eagles nesting on Grand Lake St. Marys as they incubate an undetermined number of eggs. This is the ninth year Bowers has observed eagles on the lake for ODNR.
Bowers said she thinks there are others in the community who have an interest in bird watching and invites them to check out the new group.
“I know there is an interest out there because of people I have talked to,” Bowers said. “We just have to find the right time for those people to come to meet.”
Bowers said there is a bounty of bird watching opportunities in the area, especially around the lake. A lot of migritory waterfowl, mostly ducks, are flying back north right now to their summer homes, she said. Some of those include common and hooded merganzers, northern shovelers and canvasback ducks, Bowers said. And of course the lake is home to the eagles.
Bowers calls herself a novice birder who has watched birds all her life, but only seriously for the past 10 years. In fact, she said her husband, John, is a better birder than she; he is adept at identifying birds by their song before he sees them. Last year the couple began managing a trail of bluebird boxes at the Mercer Waterfowl Area, which produced two clutches of bluebird babies and some house wrens, she said.
Bowers also belongs to the Tri-Moraine Audubon Society out of Lima, a group that promotes conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems while focusing on birds and nature through education, stewardship and fellowship.
Birders of all skill levels are invited to join the club, but above all, Bowers said she wants members to have fun. The club is open to everyone.
“I’ve been watching birds for a long time and I thought it would be interesting and fun to get together to share one another’s knowledge,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you enjoy the birds at your feeder or hike through places to get to them ... It’s just interesting to share your stories.”
Bowers said she hopes as interest in the group grows to have speakers share their bird knowledge and hold bird-watching field trips.
People who want more information can call Bowers at 419-394-4504.