The bird man of the NRV

By Charlie Whitescarver

CHRISTIANSBURG —Robert (Bob) Abraham became interested in birds when he was 12. The retired gentleman doesn’t divulge his current age, but it has not slowed him down in pursuing his love of the feathered creatures.

Bob Abraham with Nathan Broaddus. Nathan was the winner of a bird watching journal at the end of Abraham's bird photographs presentation.

This past Saturday, as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Abraham presented some of his photos at the Christiansburg Public Library. The GBBC is organized by the Cornell Lab of Orinthology and the National Audubon Society, and is an annual 4-day event aimed at engaging birdwatchers of all ages, involving them in creating a real-time snapshot of the locations of species of birds.

The event took place Feb. 15-18. Participants post their results to a website, where the numbers are tallied. Last year’s count involved over 100,000 participants, counting over 17.4 million individual bird observations. This year, as of Feb. 18, 73,339 checklists were submitted from countries all over the world. 2,764 species were observed, and 15,503,049 individual birds were counted.

Most of Abraham’s photos were taken along the New River in Radford in Bisset Park, along the River Trail and the Dedmon Center. Abraham uses a Canon digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) and a 100-400mm zoom lens. He is happy to go the way of digital photography; he says, “I am able to take as many pictures as I want.”

At one time Abraham was an avid SCUBA diver as well, but had to give it up due to a medical condition with his right ear. He now concentrates on birds and has over fifteen bird feeders in his backyard.

About a dozen adults and children attended the Saturday afternoon session. Pamela Hale, the library branch supervisor, introduced Abraham and served as the computer technician for the slide show. As each photograph appeared Abraham told a story about the birds or an adventure he had while capturing the photograph.

As Cedar Wax Wings, Pileated Woodpeckers, and White Crown Sparrows appeared on screen Abraham was quick to point out details or describe the antics of the birds. His enthusiasm for his hobby was evident as each photograph hit the screen. Black Vultures, Yellow Rump Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, Flickers, and Gold Finches are just a few of the species caught by Abraham’s camera.

He also showed photographs of minks and river otters he spotted on the New River.  According to Abraham there are “six, maybe eight minks living below Claytor Lake Dam.” He takes to the New River in a boat and has photos of Coots, Osprey, and Cormorants feeding on the river. He is looking forward to warmer weather so he can return to the river.

At the end of the presentation, participants were invited to build a simple bird feeder using pine cones, vegetable shortening, and birdseed. The cones were coated with vegetable shortening and rolled in birdseed. Abraham instructed the participants to hang the cones from tree branches, creating an instant, natural feeder. A slightly messy activity that saw participants carefully toting their pine cones out to their cars.

Abraham will be presenting a program to the New River Bird Club at the Karr Activity Center at Warm Hearth on April 3.