VIRGINIA BEACH — Birds, bicycling, snakes and flies are what author and speaker Sharon Stiteler remembers about her birding trip through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Stiteler had the dubious pleasure of bicycling through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park during July, but she said she really enjoyed the excursion despite the abundance of flies.
“I really love both birdwatching and bicycling, and I got to combine both of these,” Stiteler said. “I remember seeing foxes on the beach, and I also remember seeing snakes.”
The flies, Stiteler said, proved to be a good learning experience. “They prepared me for the mosquitoes in Minnesota.”
The national park ranger, enthusiastic birdwatcher and author presented the keynote speech at the Winter Wildlife Festival, the 10th anniversary of the event that celebrates the wildlife and habitat of Virginia Beach and neighboring communities in Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore and Knotts Island, N.C.
Stiteler is the author of Disapproving Rabbits, 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know and City Birds/Country Birds, and she is known by the nickname “Birdchick” at her website, her blog and on social media.
Stiteler spoke on Friday, Jan. 24, at Zeiders American Dream Theater in Town Center. Today, she will also conduct a workshop on “Smart Phone Birding” at 3 p.m. at Princess Anne Recreation Center, 1400 Nimmo Parkway .
That walk-up workshop will provide “neat, 21st Century” approaches to birding, said Festival Coordinator Katie Webb, a recreation specialist with the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation.
Participants will learn how to use phone apps to help them identify birds or bird calls.
Stiteler, a Minnesota resident, is a park ranger at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in St. Paul, Minn. She also works as a tour guide, birding consultant,bird field technician and in bird banding. Shehas been featured on radio and television
broadcasts, including NBC Nightly News and National Public Radio.
An Indiana native, Stiteler fell in love with birds when she was seven and made it her mission to become a professional birder.
“I saw a Peterson’s Field Guide,” she said, “and I just thought that it was wonderful. In 1997, soon after my graduation from college, I made it my goal to get paid to go birdwatching.”
Stiteler’s career has taken her across the U.S. and to other countries, including Cuba, Israel, Guatemala and Kazakhstan, and she has also explored the Virginia Beach coast.“
The first time that I ever did coastal birdingwas in Virginia Beach,” she said. She was excited by the variety of coastal birds and particularly excited to see the Blue Pete.
Stiteler, a humorous speaker, will tell about her adventures and misadventures birdwatching. Her career has taken her across many terrains, from frozen lakes to mountains to the Virginia wetlands, and, while she’s here, she’ll lead excursions on the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake Bay.
Stiteler said that she’s particularly looking forward to the Virginia Beach winter weather.
“I just hope that I don’t bring too much of the Minnesota winter with me,” she said.
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