Can you name a famous birder other than John James Audubon? Probably not, considering that these days bird watching falls somewhere between button collecting and denture polishing on the list of America's most popular hobbies. Yet when delving into the history of this pastime, it is discovered that one of the world's most influential birders got her start right here — in our back yard. Phoebe Snetsinger, a birder who identified more than 8,400 bird species globally by the time she died in 1999 (more than anyone else in the world up till that point), nurtured her hobby in Blackburn Park. After she died, the funds from her memorial went toward a bird sanctuary in the park, which now takes up five of its nearly 38 acres. The birds of Blackburn include a pair of nesting owls, hummingbirds, sparrows and those with more fanciful names — yellow-bellied sapsuckers, dark-eyed juncos, blue-gray gnatcatchers. Shawnell Faber, park manager for the city of Webster Groves, confirms that Blackburn Park is a popular spot for families to spot "all the birds of a typical urban area."
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