Who are the Second Saturday Regulars? This started as an idea at the Master Naturalists’ book club. They read a book about a group that birded in Central Park, New York City. The book club knew they could not meet to bird every day but they wanted to bird together once a month - that would be manageable. And so they agreed on the second Saturday of each month - hence the Second Saturday Regulars. Susan Shaw is part of this book club and was at the forefront of the discussion. And she is the one who leads this group as they meet each month to spend an hour together, walking and birding. I join in whenever I can and always have such a wonderful time. This is a great group of people – birders of all levels. And what everyone has in common is a love of birds and curiosity about what we are seeing and where. And you are all invited to join!
Linda: How did you become interested in the Illinois Master Naturalist program?
Susan: I was at a Bee Club meeting and Sonya Anthony mentioned the upcoming training to become a Master Naturalist – she had already taken the classes and was involved in several projects. I had just retired from education so was sort of looking for something. It has brought such peace and joy to my life. I have made lifelong friendships with people that I know I would never have met if not for the program.
Linda: How did you get started in birding?
Susan: My grandmother was quite the outdoorswoman and she birded. I used to go with her, but it wasn’t really until the SSR group formed that I really got into birding.
Linda: How did you get the idea for the SSR? And is this part of your work as a Master Naturalist?
Susan: Our group is called Second Saturday Regulars. Our Master Naturalist Book Club read the book Red-tails in Love. Besides the book being about a pair of Red-tailed Hawks in New York’s Central Park, it also was about this group of birders that met up every single day. We just really liked that idea, the friendships that evolved over time, and we also thought this might be a good way to get folks out birding and in nature. We knew we couldn’t meet up daily but thought maybe once a month. Thus, the group was formed. The birders in the book referred to themselves as The Regulars. So, we meet on the second Saturday, 7AM in the warmer months, 8AM in the colder months. Typically, we are out for about an hour. We felt that with a set day and only being out for an hour - it would not take away from most people’s Saturdays or weekends. It really has worked out well and we have a nice core group and have picked up some new people along the way. I use the hour towards my Master Naturalist education hours.
Linda: How are the places selected and what are some of the places you have birded? Any favorite places?
Susan: I usually confer with Melody Arnold about our location. She comes from Blue Mound and we have a couple that come from Monticello. Try to keep the travel fair for everyone. I don’t have the years of birding that Melody does so I look to her to tap into her bird knowledge and what might be where or migrating. We have birded in 13 different locations spread across Macon, Piatt and Dewitt Counties which are the 3 counties in our Glacier’s Edge Master Naturalist territory. Parks include: Sportsman, Fairview, Allerton, and Spitler Woods. Conservation Areas include: Rock Springs, Fort Daniels, and Friends Creek. We have also visited Weldon Springs in Dewitt County, Lincoln Trail Homestead in Macon County, and the Bruce Cannon Levee Trail in Piatt County. My favorite place was a visit to Allerton during spring migration that was just out of this world. One word: Warblers.
Linda: Seen any birds that have surprised you? Anything unusual?
Susan: We saw a Belted Kingfisher at Weldon Springs that was a thrill. Some other birds that are considered rare and that we have seen include: Evening Grosbeak, Bank Swallow, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Lincoln Sparrow. Being new at this, these were all firsts for me.
Linda: How can someone join? And what equipment is needed? Can someone who has never gone birding or does not know much about birds - can they come? And how would someone find out where you are birding on your second Saturday?
Susan: We welcome everyone. Show up one Saturday or every Saturday. If you come once you will want to come again because we have a lot of fun and are just a nice group of people. Most of us have extra binoculars and are happy to share, so no equipment is needed.
Linda: How many people on average come for these outings?
Susan: We average 7 people a Saturday. To date, our largest group was 16 and the smallest was 5.
Decatur Audubon Society supports the Second Saturday Regulars by announcing their walks on its website and FaceBook page. Our website is: www.decatur-audubon.org. Click on Events. The FaceBook page can be accessed by going on Facebook: type in Decatur Audubon, click on it when it comes up, then click on Events. If you have questions, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. I agree with Susan – this is a wonderful group of people. My Saturday always goes better after spending an hour with them. Hope to see you on one of these walks. Happy birding!
Photos courtesy of: Susan Shaw, Melody Arnold and Elissa McGlaughlin