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Binoculars and a Book
Victor Glick and Libby Schreiner

Libby Schreiner, Victor Glick (center) and their travel companion Richard Green pose with their gear while birding in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

When Victor Glick and Libby Schreiner go somewhere they pack binoculars and bird books. The Winthrop couple has visited every continent on earth and watched birds everywhere from Antarctica to the Amazon. Along the way they have observed thousands of the world’s 9,000-some species of birds, but they don’t know precisely how many. The two keep a detailed journal, but are not obsessive about counting.

“Birding is more than just identifying birds or checking something off a list,” said Glick. “Libby and I love watching birds because it draws you into the natural world in so many different ways. Birds are a part of a bigger picture.”

Both Glick, 68, and Schreiner, 56, had an early interest in birds. Victor grew up in rural Pennsylvania and remembers tagging along with his brother who had a bird book. Libby’s father was a science teacher who loved being outside and she, too, caught the birding bug young. Now retired, the two like to spend time out and about in the Methow and beyond watching birds and other critters.

“Birds are not the sole determinant of where we go,” said Glick. “But it is a major factor, a big part of our travels.”

Their shared interest in nature has taken the couple to some unusual places across the globe. Glick and Schreiner have watched flocks of flamingos in the Serengeti, stalked songbirds in South America, witnessed rookeries of tens of thousands of penguins in Antarctica, and observed vast colonies of sea birds in places from Spitsbergen, Norway to Kamchatka in Eastern Russia.

“Some of the things we’ve seen are so awe-inspiring we couldn’t do anything but stand silent with wonder,” said Glick. “And where there are lots of birds, there is often a rich diversity of other species. The whole web of life is tied together.”

For all their travels, Glick and Schreiner still find inspiration and wonder right out the door of their home in Wolf Creek.

  A Great Grey Owl (left) and a Northern Hawk Owl, both seen in Okanogan County.  

“The Methow is a great place to bird,” said Glick. “From the alpine areas along the Cascade crest, to the shrub-steppe, to the Columbia River, we have a huge diversity of habitats and that means lots of different birds.”

In fact Okanogan County leads all counties in Washington State in the number of bird species sighted. Year to year, birdwatchers have documented the presence of around 270 different species in the county. Including rare sightings, such as the Yellow-throated Warbler (a native of the Southeastern U.S.) that was seen in Twisp 10 years ago, a total of 320 different species of birds have been spotted in Okanogan County.

Even in the dead of winter, some 100 species of birds call Okanogan County home. Those numbers swell when the snow melts and seasonal migrants return from warmer climes. Some arctic birds actually find Methow winters quite to their liking. For example, Redpoles, White-winged Crossbills and Northern Hawk Owls may over-winter here before heading back north.

“Every change of season brings a fresh group of birds to observe, so it’s a constantly-changing, year round opportunity,” said Glick.

  The piercing gaze of a Snowy Owl and a White-tailed Ptarmigan in winter plumage spotted near Hart's Pass.  

For Glick and Schreiner, the song of warblers returning to the valley is a sure sign of spring – and a reminder that birding is not just about watching, but listening.

“You can see forward and a little to the side, but you can hear 360 degrees,” said Glick. “Listening to birds has become increasingly important to Libby and me as an identification tool and in learning more about what is going on between birds.”

In the field Libby and Victor work as a team. Together, each brings certain strengths to their shared interest. They like to hike with friends, but they also enjoy moving slowly and quietly through the landscape. Sometimes they split up to increase their chances of seeing something unusual.

“Libby has really good ears and incredible eyes. She spots movement and abnormal shapes in trees that turn out to be interesting things. She also has sort of a photographic mind and can remember bird details for later identification,” said Glick. “I carry the spotting scope.” Despite his modesty, Glick has a knack for hearing and remembering bird vocalizations and song.

While Glick and Schreiner have seen a lot of birds, they don’t presume to think of themselves as experts. The two said they have learned a lot from naturalists like Dana Visalli, biologists such as Kent Woodruff and a whole host of other Methow bird buffs.

“Kent was really instrumental in teaching us how to listen, not just look for birds, and Dana is a huge inspiration for all the work he’s done documenting the natural history of the Methow Valley,” said Glick. “There are a lot of people out there to learn from.”

While birding can be a quiet activity, Glick and Schreiner’s interest has opened doors into a community of fellow nature observers. Each year they participate in various bird counts around the region, including the annual Audubon-sponsored Christmas bird count in the Methow, which has been held each year since 1900. Volunteers meet up for a pre-dawn breakfast, fan out, spend a day in the field, and then flock together for a potluck dinner in the evening.

Birders often see more than birds. Glick and Schreiner ran across this cougar in the Methow Valley in December of 2011.

When it comes to birds Glick has a hard time choosing favorites, but he is partial to owls. Often the most fascinating birding experiences the couple has involve interplay between birds or interactions between birds and other animals. For example, last week Glick and Schreiner saw a Short-eared Owl harass a much larger Rough-legged hawk east of Bridgeport. They have watched bald eagles and coyotes fighting over a deer carcass here in the Methow. That’s one of the draws of birding: You never know what you might see. This winter in the valley, Glick and Schreiner have come face-to-face with a cougar and got the chance to watch a rare pine marten.

Where to next for Glick and Schreiner? They have no definite plans, but both would love to travel to Papua New Guinea to witness the famous displays of some of the 40 species of Birds of Paradise.

But the beauty of birding is that you don’t really need to go anywhere. Just open your eyes.

“All you need is a book and a pair of binoculars,” said Glick. “Birds are everywhere.”

To learn more about local birds and birding opportunities check out the Methow Naturalist ( and the North Central Washington Audubon Society (


Patrick Hannigan is a freelance writer who lives in Twisp.

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