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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Bird watching faster sport than football?

Most of us have watched birds in the back yard build nests and raise their young. Some of us even put out feeders for hummingbirds so we may marvel at their defiance of laws of aerodynamics.

Bird watching as a hobby?

No way. But the stereotype of a birder wearing a pith helmet, camera and binoculars around the neck and lugging a portable seat is out.

Bird watching is enough big business that the North Alabama Birding Trail now has 50 sites from which to watch.

The state officially open the trail in Decatur on Friday at its newest site at Day Park on the north side of the Tennessee River in Limestone County.

The trail stretches across 11 counties as local and state tourism officials continue to see birdwatchers as ideal tourists. Decatur, through a self-imposed lodging tax on hotels, changed Day Park from a blighted area into a bird-watch kiosk, nature trails and other improvements in a $300,000 project. It's a good investment.

Statistics used at the Friday ceremony said the nation has 46 million birders who spend $32 million each year on their hobby. Turn those tourist dollars over a few times, and they say Alabama benefited $1.43 billion from watchers who spend their money here.

Presently much of the state's bird watching is done along the Gulf Coast but this trail is sure to bring more folks. Credit the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau with selling the city on converting Day Park. But give former Mayor Lynn Fowler some, too, for buying the idea.

Are you ready for some bird watching? Here's something you need to know from a pro:

It's not like watching a football game. Before you go, spend time developing the hand-eye coordination required to spot birds quickly with your binoculars because there's much more action than in a football game. Everything is happening at 1/100 the scale and moves 100 times as quickly over an unlimited expanse of space.

And that's not for sissies.

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