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Botanical Gardens give a hoot at bird fest

San Dimas Wild Wings volunteer Bruce Thoman helps visitors learn more about 22-year-old Andrew, a great horned owl, at the Family Bird Fest at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont on Sunday. San Dimas Wild Wings is a nonprofit rehabilitation center for sick and injured native birds. / photo by Debora Escobar

Veronica Sepulveda
Staff Writer

What better way to discover the fascinating lives and habitat of birds than to see, touch and hear about it first hand.

On Sunday the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens hosted its Annual Family Bird Fest in Claremont.

The Botanic Gardens is a private, non-profit, research and educational institution that was founded in 1927 by Susanna Bixby Bryant.

Their mission is to inspire, inform and educate the public and the scientific community about botany, conservation and horticulture.

Measuring 86 acres, the Gardens is the largest botanical garden composed exclusively of California’s native plants.

The Botanic Gardens hold several special events a month including exhibits, clinics, shows, festivals, walking tours, school outreach programs, teacher workshops, musical events and exercise classes such as yoga and tai chi.

“This place provides education and school tours,” said Carol Hopping, nature interpreter. “They do so many great things and make it fun and interesting to learn about nature.”

The Family Bird Fest was a great event where families came out and experienced nature together.

Throughout the Gardens there were many learning activities, games, crafts and bird viewing stations, such as a feather and bones station, a woodpecker discovery cart, hummingbird habitat, a migration area and craft area where children were able to build bird cages and bird feeders.

“I thought it was amazing how knowledgeable the volunteers were about all the birds,” Darren Guentert, an Alta Loma resident, said. “They are very kid friendly and you can tell it was made for families.”

“They are teaching you rather then telling you,” Guentert said.

At each station there were enthusiastic volunteers and nature interpreters that gave information and demonstrations on different types of birds and made learning fun and interactive for children.

“I was surprised at how much people knew already,” Rich Griffin, a nature interpreter, said. “Then they have the opportunity to look at the specimens and find out more.”

The Gardens also partnered with other non-profit organizations, such as The Pomona Valley Audubon Society and Wild Wings. Their exhibit allowed families to get up close and observe a live red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl.

Participants of the Family Bird Fest were also able to participate in the citizen-science project that helped tally birds and contribute to the national Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Cornell Lab Ornithology.

Last year on Feb 18 to 21, an estimated 60,000 people helped the Audubon, Cornell Lab Ornithology and Bird Studies of Canada locate and take snapshots of 596 species across the U.S. and Canada.

As part of the Great Backyard Bird Count, all 400 people who attended were counted as birds and will be recorded in the final bird count, which ended on Feb. 20.

The Gardens is a wonderful place for anyone to learn about nature and to experience the out doors.

“This is a little spot in Southern California that no one knows about,” Guentert said. “It is like a little oasis that people should know more about.”

For more information about the bird count visit

Veronica Sepulveda can be reached at

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