Rick Koval’s love for bird-watching began under circumstances similar to right now.

He was homebound, recovering from a knee operation and looking for something fun to do at home.

“I was limited and I was going stir crazy,” Koval recalled.

Having always loved animals, Koval found beauty in the hummingbirds in his backyard and wanted to learn more about them.

Koval, an adjunct biology instructor at Keystone College, has since taught a variety of ornithology courses.

He’s a prolific eBirder, leading the nation with more than 5,000 listings of bird observations this season.

“It’s very obsessive,” Koval said. “But it’s an enjoyable obsession that anybody can partake in.”

It is prime season for bird-watching, as birds of all kinds are migrating through Pennsylvania.

Earlier this month, Koval went out with his wife, Wendy, and friend, Stan Galenty, and the three spent some 18 hours identifying 149 species of birds across Luzerne County.

“The months of May and June,” Koval said, “it’s incredible what can come through the backyard, the county park or even in the sky.”

A rose-breasted grosbeak seems unperturbed about sharing a snack with a pair of binoculars.


Identifying birds has never been easier, thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which has created smartphone applications — Merlin Bird ID and eBird — to aid novice and experienced bird-watchers alike.

“You could just download apps on your cellphone. Then you can record the calls and it tells you what they are,” Koval said. “You can take a picture of a bird and if it’s sharp enough, you can have that identified, as well.”

The birds most commonly found at this time in Northeast Pennsylvania include American robins and goldfinches, northern cardinals, house finches, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, common crows and gray catbirds, among others, Koval said.

“Nothing beats repetitive birding experiences to learn and memorize identifications and vocalizations,” Koval said.

There are additional resources available, too, like the Wyoming Valley Audubon Society and Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society.


Birding starter kit

A healthy pair of eyes and ears goes a long way, as the senses of sight and sound help identify birds.

The most sophisticated, high-tech binoculars could run you over $1,000. Luckily, you can get a good pair for use in the backyard for as low as $80.

There’s a wide range of literature and resource guides available, but a smartphone equipped with the apps Merlin Bird ID and eBird will do the trick, too.

Pet stores and supermarkets sell birdseed and sunflower seeds, which could be put in a backyard bird feeder to attract birds. Or make a birdfeeder with the kids by spreading peanut butter on a pine cone, rolling it in birdseed and hanging it from a tree with yarn.