Birds of a feather migrate to JC
Monday, March 18, 2013
Before her nine-year courtship with her husband Steve, Regina Garr couldn’t have distinguished a bluebird from a chickadee.
Two states and 20 years of marriage later, the pair offer formal seminars and informal conversations about backyard birds.
“Just like our customers, we love to talk about what our (backyard) friends are doing,” Regina said.
When the couple moved to Jefferson City nine years ago, they also established a storefront for Birds-I-View, incorporated in 1991 as a mail-order catalog.
“I’ve always liked animals; Steve turned me on to birds,” Regina said.
Steve has been self-employed since age 24. He began his career in his father’s Purina feed store in Tennessee.
Regina was a traveling product training manager for Ralston-Purina in the 1980s. That’s how the two met.
When 25 percent of Steve’s father’s 10,000-square-feet store had expanded to bird items, he discovered, “I think I like this best,” he said.
Their specialty is cavity nesters — no wonder they were charter members of the Missouri Bluebird Society.
But they also rely on professional organizations and experts to keep up with trends and the latest information.
Last year, the Garrs watched more than 100 babies fledge from the martin houses and bluebird boxes they tend.
When in Tennessee, the Garrs kept more than 100 bluebird boxes.
“We enjoy it and could definitely spend all of our time looking in nest boxes,” Regina said.
But they’ve both enjoyed the aspect of educating others, too. In addition to their store hours, they publish a website and e-mail newsletter, plus regularly updated brochures specific to local species and backyard bird issues.
Most people are attracted to conservation through their own backyards, Regina said.
“We just like that avenue of sharing information,” she said. “We like to see people learn the correct information.”
As they research and prepare for workshops, like this weekend’s “Advanced bluebirding and Purple Martins,” the Garrs enjoy learning, too — even from those who will attend their seminars.
“Birds don’t know state lines,” Steve said.
Their store’s wall is lined with photos from customers and Steve of backyard visitors, like an albino bluejay or a dozen bluebirds or a hummingbird feeding from a boy’s hands.
But they also get a thrill from the occasional “outsider” who visits, like the brown pelican at Binder Park, the road runner, the painted bunting which nested at Steak ‘n Shake, the western kingbirds which nested at Walmart or the scissor-tailed fly catchers at Walgreens.
“It fun when people are seeing birds here which they didn’t get on a plane to go see,” Regina said.
When someone reports an unusual or a first siting to the Garrs, they then share it with their other customers, “so people know what to be looking for,” Steve said.
For example, the common red poll visits during the winter but can get lost among the pine siskins, he said.
“It’s nice to know what’s going on in people’s backyards,” Regina said.
At home and at the store, the Garrs keep a journal of when different species arrive each year. Then they can compare that information to future years.
For the last few years, the Garrs have supported the Missouri River Bird Observatory’s long-term banding research.
Because of the banding, the Garrs found the same white-throated sparrow who visited the store’s park last winter returned this season, too, after nesting further north.
“It’s exciting when they come back; hopefully we’ll see him again next year,” Steve said.