The 2017 Gala Committee Goes on a Birdwatching Adventure at the Virginia Robinson Gardens
It was a day of sweltering heat at the Virginia Robinson Gardens on Friday morning, September 1st. Darrow Feldstein, son of this year’s Spirit of Beverly Hills Award Patron Gala recipient Lisa Greer, took the committee and honorees on a birdwatching adventure through the various themed gardens.
The morning began with greeting all participants in the Loggia with a bountiful array of tantalizing refreshments. Jeanne Anderson beautifully decorated the area with a lovely floral arrangement, complete with a bird, bird house, and bird’s nest. Pillows and tablecloths where true to the theme as they were all adorned with colorful birds. Darrow was introduced to everyone, and Superintendent Timothy Lindsay gave him a little history about the Virginia Robinson Gardens.
As we set out on our adventure, Darrow had us gather in a circle and before he told us about himself, he cleverly memorized all of our names and fluidly recited each of our names back to us. Very impressive! “What we are going to do today is stroll and linger around the grounds and see what we encounter,” Darrow said. “I am not your typical bird leader. I won’t point out birds and shout their names. That is not how you learn. Instead, I will ask you questions and I am going to have you think a little deeper about what you hear and see, and hopefully that will lead us to the names of birds.” Darrow also pointed out that we will not limit ourselves to just seeking out birds. Insects, such as butterflies, will also be important to watch for on our stroll.
We began the walk – binoculars in tow, through the Meadowscape Lawn at the front of the property. “There are a lot of butterflies,” Darrow acknowledged. “This place is amazing for them.” With that, the first thing that we saw was a variety of butterflies fluttering about the lawn. We saw many – a Giant Swallowtail, Monarchs, Whites and Sulphurs, and Gulf Fritillary – all of which inspired us to ask what we could do to bring these types of magnificent fluttering beauties to our own gardens. Here is a link for butterfly lovers who are interested in the varieties of plants that attract them: California Native Plant Society. As for the Virginia Robinson Gardens, the Meadowscape is full of wild flowers and overall, the property contains an incredible variety of flowering plants and fruit trees.
Moving forward, the group meandered through the Italian Terrace Garden. Darrow made us aware that listening and patience are as important as looking for birds. Following this type of guidance helped us to recognize, beyond city noise, how to hone in on the melodic chirping and singing made by the variety of birds that we could not yet see. We began to look in the direction from where the sounds came. As we refined our senses, we began to experience the garden’s enchantment from a new perspective—that of mindfulness. We heard and saw a variety of birds by listening first, then seeing, followed by describing, and then identifying birds from the chart that Darrow brought along. Some of the birds that we heard and saw were: sparrows, hummingbirds, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, crows, and wrens.
As we walked through the rest of the themed gardens, other playful “types” of birds and creatures that we encountered were the chickens in the Poulet Palace, a flowering “Bird of Paradise,” two types of dragonflies, minnows in a fountain, a spider making his web, and a lizard basking in the sun.
Despite the heat, the morning stroll through the gardens led by Darrow was a grand adventure, and appreciated by all. We learned how to “see” the gardens from a different perspective and have a better appreciation for all of its inhabitants and wonders. We hope that Darrow will be back again for more birdwatching exploration!
Post by Diane Jenkins
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
About Darrow Feldstein:
“I grew up here in L.A. I went to Beverly Hills High, but didn’t really find my passion for nature until I went to college at UC Santa Cruz where I focused on education in the Environmental Studies Department. At that point, I fully fell hard for nature. It really changed my whole perspective on the world. It allowed me to be more aware of my surroundings, and I am constantly listening for birds at all times.
I run a program called the Bird School Project. I work in public schools in the Monterey Bay Area and I teach kids about birds in their school yard. This is often the first time that kids get to use high-end binoculars, and it blows their minds every time. To date, I have taught almost 5000 students in the last four years.”
Darrow’s passion for understanding the natural world has taken him all around the globe to immerse himself in deep, wild places. Since finishing school he has taught seasonally for a variety of nature education programs. Darrow has spent his time working in Yosemite National Park as a field biologist studying the alpine habitats of Sierra Bighorn Sheep and American Pikas and the populations of California Spotted Owls and Great Gray Owls.
If you are interested in learning more about or supporting The Bird School Project, please visit the website at: www.birdschoolproject.org