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Connecting With Nature: Learn More About Local Birds by Jennifer McConkey

Jennifer McConkey
Jennifer McConkey

Local photographer James “Jim” Upchurch has allowed the Sebring Public Library to display his bird photographs for the last few months, enjoying letting others see his pictures and learn about the birds.
“It’s been a good part of my retirement to do that, and I’ve learned a lot too,” he says about photographing birds.
He adds that a good photographer will study the bird after taking its picture to learn more about it. Upchurch has even written captions for all of his pictures so library patrons can learn about each bird.
Upchurch’s interest in birding isn’t just something he does on his own – he is a member of the Highlands County Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society.
According to the local group’s website, its “[p]urpose is to promote an understanding of wildlife and the environment that supports it, encouraging the protection of all species of flora, fauna, and marine life, and promote the sensible use of natural resources.”
The group normally visits birding sites as a group, but Upchurch says it has had to put a hold on those activities during the pandemic.
You can learn more about the Highlands County Audubon Society by visiting

Learn About Birding

Upchurch says that if you want to start birding in your own backyard, a good first step is getting a bird feeder that squirrels can’t eat out of.
For more tips about birding, you can go to or check out one of the libraries’ many resources.
If you want to learn more about what birds you might see in your backyard or across the state, consider checking out one of these books:
-“Birds of Florida: Field Guide” by Stan Tekiela.
-“Florida’s Fabulous Waterbirds: Their Stories” by Winston Williams.
-“The Joys of Bird Watching in Florida” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
-“A Birder’s Guide to Florida” by James A. Lane.
-“Guide to the Great Florida Birding Trail: East Section: a Project of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
-“Birding Florida: Over 200 Prime Birding Sites at 54 Locations” by Brian Rapoza.
You can also learn about birds or other animals by checking out a documentary DVD, like “The Messenger.”
And if you’re interested in making your property more bird-friendly, you might want to read one of these books.
-“A Step-by-Step Guide to a Florida Native Yard” by Ginny Stibolt and Marjorie Shropshire.
-“Birdscaping Your Garden: A Practical Guide to Backyard Birds and the Plants That Attract Them” by George Adams.
-“The Bird Garden” / Stephen W. Kress
-“The Bird Feeder Guide: How to Attract and Identify Birds in Your Garden” by Marcus Schneck.
The libraries also have resources to learn about other types of wildlife, so check the online catalogue at or ask a library staff member where to find books or DVDs about the plant or animal you’re interested in learning about.

Get Up & Go

Once you’ve learned, find somewhere to safely observe wildlife.
“Kids often really don’t get out there,” Upchurch says, adding that they might visit neighborhood parks without experiencing the “real wild.”
A local State Park is Highlands Hammock State Park, located at 5931 Hammock Road in
Sebring. The Highlands County Audubon Society built a viewing stand at the park last year to help people see more birds.
Lake June in Winter, at Daffodil Road in Lake Placid, is another local park that has rare animals and birds.
Upchurch also recommends visiting the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland if you’re able to – just make sure to watch out for alligators.
But whether you’re looking for nature in Highlands County or in other parts of the state or country, the most important step is going.
“Just getting up and going and doing, that’s the main thing,” Upchurch says.

This is the second of a two-part article about James Upchurch and birding in Florida.

Bird Books

The libraries have books and magazines about birds and other wildlife. You can even check out wildlife documentaries on DVD.





Bird Pictures

Upchurch has researched each of his bird photos on display at the Sebring Public Library and written informational plaques for the public to learn more.