Kevin Rypka and his daughter Emma, 8, use a spotting scope to watch wild ducks at Kirby Park. Rypka said a spotting scope is a great tool for bird watching because it allows for an up close look to easily identify species.PETE G. WILCOX/The Times Leader
A male cardinal perched in a thicket in Kirby Park. Cardinals are commonly sighted by birdwatchers during the winter.PETE G. WILCOX/The Times Leader
Kevin Rypka has a simple hobby. Armed with binoculars, a spotting scope and a trusty field guide, the Larksville resident spends his weekends searching for birds. Any type will do.
Rypka, 30, wants to share with others the pleasure he gets from being such an avid birdwatcher. He’s used his skills as a Web site designer to compose a Web site ( www.nepabirdproject.org) for bird enthusiasts to share their sightings and local hotspots.
“Right now I’m hoping people start using it and sharing information,” he said. “It’s a place where they can immediately post what they saw so others can go look for it too.”
Rypka’s interest in bird watching developed when he was a child growing up in New Jersey. Family trips to the Celery Farm Natural Area offered Rypka a chance to see many species of birds in the diverse habitat.
“I found it amazing because there are so many different varieties, colors and types,” he said. “It was a fascinating thing to learn about.”
When the family moved to Pennsylvania 17 years ago, Rypka’s bird-watching jaunts diminished. He was in a new area, he said, and didn’t know where to go. It wasn’t long until the sports and friends that come along with high school life ate up much of his free time, putting bird watching on the back burner.
It took a family trip to Cape May, New Jersey, last summer to rekindle the passion.
Surrounded by a beautiful natural area, Rypka thought back to his bird watching days. The memories were too strong to resist, and he bought a pair of binoculars and ventured into the outdoors.
Today, Rypka goes bird watching every weekend. His favorite local hotspots include PPL’s Wetlands Natural Area in Salem Township, Nescopeck State Park, Harveys Lake (for waterfowl) and Kirby Park, which Rypka said is turning into an important birding area.
Among his most exciting recent sightings are a mature bald eagle in Salem Township and woodcock as they go through their mating rituals in Nescopeck State Park.
They are sightings that Rypka wants to share so other birders can experience it, and he’s hoping his Web site will be the vehicle.
“Eventually I’d like to see it grow to where we have people doing a blog for every county in the northeast,” Rypka said. “There’s a lot to see here, and people need a place that let’s them know where to find it.”
“Right now I’m hoping people start using it and sharing information. … It’s a place where they can immediately post what they saw so others can go look for it too.”