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Bird is the Word on a Mother-Son Outing


Published May 25, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.

The barn outside the Birds of Vermont Museum - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • The barn outside the Birds of Vermont Museum
My 8-year-old son, Harper, is technically a Leo, but really, I swear he’s an avian. When he was a baby, he squawked so much for food, we called him the Seagull; these days, with his habit of snatching and stashing shiny, silvery things around our home in Shelburne, his spirit animal (determined by the Dunn family) is the crow.

I’m a squirrel, meanwhile, and happen to have a lot in common with Harper, including a love of garage sales. Weird, old, cheap stuff that we can hide away in our house until next spring’s cleaning comes around? Yes, please! So when I noticed a calendar listing for a “Garage Sale for the Birds” at Huntington’s Birds of Vermont Museum to be held last Saturday, I went nuts and Harper was atwitter.

We’d never been to the Birds of Vermont Museum, which is open to the public from May to October. And as we rumbled through the back roads of Chittenden County in my 4Runner, passing neon notices for moving sales, garage sales, yard sales and barn sales (but no bird sales), we became nervous. Where was this place? To keep Harper’s spirits up, I asked him about his favorite bird. “A penguin!” he said emphatically, and grew quiet again. Then, suddenly, somewhere along Sherman Hollow Road, we spotted the sign.

Harper eyes the garage-sale sign - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Harper eyes the garage-sale sign
The affable museum director allowed us a quick peek inside before pointing us to the garage sale. The building houses more than 470 model birds, whittled by the late master carver Bob Spear, a Colchester farmer. Harper and I looked at the loon family that took 850-plus hours to carve and paint before migrating over to the Endangered and Extinct Birds of North America section.

“Look!” said Harper, pointing to the California condor and the Bachman’s warbler. “It’s the biggest and the smallest next to each other. Whoa! That one’s cool,” he added, pointing to a resplendent quetzal. A penguin! Oh…it’s not a penguin. It’s a great auk. But it’s like a penguin.”

We would have lingered longer, but the sale was calling, so we ambled up the hill to, yes, a garage displaying an array of wooden feeders and assorted knickknacks from the bird-watching world. I was baffled by something called the squirrel baffle, while Harper was humming over a hummingbird feeder. A sticker told us to name our price.

“One cent,” said Harper as we walked back down to pay at the museum.

“How about one dollar?” I said.

“Sold!” said the director.

Back home, Harper made sugar water to fill the feeder. We haven’t seen many hummingbirds yet. But the sugar water stays stashed in the fridge, in an old mason jar that reminds me of the wonderful, sweet mysteries of birds and garage sales in the spring.

Read more about The Birds of Vermont Museum and the neighboring Green Mountain Audubon Center in the June issue of Kids VT, on newsstands Tuesday, May 30.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.