What’s the difference between a birder and a birdwatcher?
Birdwatchers “like birds, and maybe notice birds…but they’re not really going out birding much, if at all,” said Brandy Bowmaster, one of the hosts of the Grand Birds show on KZMU Radio.
A birder “is going to some effort to go to some places and specifically look for birds outside of their home,” she said.
According to Glenn Kincaid, the other host of the show: “A birder is a rabid birdwatcher that will proactively go places and look for birds.”
Kincaid and Bowmaster were brought together by Serah Mead, the station manager at KZMU, after both had the idea for a local birding podcast separately. Grand Birds started in early September 2021 and, next week, they’ll host the 25th episode.
“We joined forces, and it’s worked out really well,” Kincaid said. He’s been watching birds since he was a child, he said, but only started rabidly paying attention to birds about 12 years ago at his home in Castle Valley. What really sparked his passion was a vacation he took to various places around the world—it was then that he noticed the different birds in each location, and started trying to find them.
The birding community in Moab and Grand County is fairly small, Kincaid said. The core group of enthusiasts mostly stems from the Moab Bird Club, but Bowmaster said part of the reason why she enjoys doing the podcast is the idea that she can get more people involved in birding, especially younger people.
“I really love birds, I find them super fascinating,” Bowmaster said. “And I love to talk about them. It seems like there’s a lot of people that don’t really know that much about birds, and [the show] seems like such a great way to share some cool information, and get people a little interested.”
Bowmaster participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count, held on Dec. 18, 2021. The Christmas Bird Count is a nationwide event started in 1900 by the Audubon Society—basically, birding groups around the country will use the day to walk around and count the birds they see. The Moab numbers are still being tallied by members of the Moab Bird Club, but Bowmaster said her group, which counted birds on the east side of town, found that last year’s bird count was quieter than usual—though the group did see a few sharp-shinned hawks.
One of the other reasons Bowmaster is involved in the show is to get more people interested in bird conservation, she said. She’s found that in the birding world, birders are reporting quieter and quieter years. In 2019, a study found that since the 1970s, 2.9 billion birds have been lost in North America alone due to factors including pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.
“Birds are actually really in trouble right now,” she said. “We need all the people we can get who want to do what they can to help them.”
This winter, Bowmaster and Kincaid said to look out for winter waterfowl and for rosy-finches, who nest in high alpine environments but move downslope in the winter to avoid heavy snowstorms.
“I really appreciate the birding in the winter season because it’s a really good opportunity to get really accustomed to what’s around and familiar with the soundscape,” Bowmaster said. “And then whenever the birds start to come back in the spring, it’s super apparent.”
As the Grand Birds show continues on, Kincaid said he’s looking forward to telling more local birders’ stories.
“We’ll continue to explore our mix of reports from the field and talking with local birders or scientists involved in ecology or biology,” Kincaid said. “There are more people out there that we’d like to chat with, and bring their story to the public.”
The show airs on KZMU radio (90.1 and 106.7 FM) on Fridays at 11:50 a.m. and can also be found on Soundcloud and Apple Podcasts.