In the movie, “The Big Year,” the character Kenny makes the statement, “Birds wait for no man.” On a recent road trip, we found a place where the birds do wait. In fact, you can take your time as you observe more than 500 birds, including migratory species, ducks and raptors. How is this possible? The birds are hand-carved from wood.
When our summertime travels brought us northward, out of New Jersey, we ended up visiting the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, Vermont. This museum is home to a meticulously designed collection of wooden birds that are displayed according to their natural environment. The craftsmanship is amazing. Each carving is actual size and extremely detailed, posed to capture the personality and behavior of the bird in its habitat. For example, the kingfisher had a freshly caught fish in its beak and the nuthatch was positioned on the trunk of a tree.
As we first entered the museum, we were immediately drawn to a windowed viewing area to watch the live birds visiting the outside feeders. A row of binoculars lined the windowsill for the guest’s viewing pleasure. When the hummingbirds and other species flittered near the window, an outside microphone picked up the sound so you not only saw the birds, but heard them as well. For a chance to see more live birds, you could sneak back outside to hike around a nature trail.
The curator chatted with us for a while, answered questions, and then showed us a quick, informative video about the museum’s history and the artist, Bob Spear. After that, we explored the upstairs and downstairs collections on our own. The collections included replicas of Vermont’s nesting birds, as well as endangered and extinct species. There were sections for birds of the wetlands and raptors. Even a life-sized Tom turkey was on display. Many of the plaques identifying the carvings contained a scannable bar code allowing you to hear the bird’s call. In the artist’s workshop, you could see various wooden shapes being transformed into birds. The collection is continuously being added to. The latest project is to complete the carving of the ducks and shore birds section.
The Birds of Vermont museum gives you an opportunity to study the details of birds in a way that a one-dimensional field guide can’t. Although the birds are hand-carved, they are lifelike. There was a lot to see, but my favorite carvings were the owls, wrens and warblers. If you are taking a road trip this summer, plan a visit to the Birds of Vermont Museum.