Local teen takes hobby seriously
His grandmother calls him the ‘Dr. Dolittle of Pondview.’ His father has nicknamed him the ‘father of the ducks,’ or ‘Noah for small animals.’ But to Travis Maher, his fascination with animals started at a young age, and his current hobby is something he loves to do.
© Krysta Colbourne photo
Sixteen-year-old Travis Maher of Grand Falls-Windsor has two hobbies in one – feeding animals and taking their pictures. He spends a lot of his time out on the shoreline of Little Rushy Pond feeding the ducks.
Travis’ love for photography and animals has created an interesting past time for the teen.
About three years ago, Travis noticed his next door neighbour had bird feeders up around his house, and thought the birds would be nice objects to photograph.
When he received a new camera for Christmas he set up feeders by his home to try to capture stills of the many species of birds in the Pondview Drive area in Grand Falls-Windsor.
The 16-year-old said some birds, like blue jays, would knock the seed out of the feeder on to the ground.
“I would have the families of ducks come up and feed on my front yard,” Travis said. “I decided to put some food by the shoreline so they wouldn’t cross the road, so they wouldn’t get run over. Then there were a lot more coming in, especially in the fall of the year.”
He said when he started feeding the ducks in Little Rushy Pond, there were 15 in the area, last year there were 250, and now there is almost 300, differing in species including the black duck, mallards, green-winged teal and ring neck duck.
“They are the most common ones,” he said. “Canada geese come there sometimes.”
There were 11 Canada geese in the pond last week.
“They would come in and feed with the ducks,” he said. “They were a bit shy but they would come in. All the ducks know me and every time I walked out the door they all used to come up because they knew it was me. The geese would usually come in with them.”
Travis goes out to feed the ducks daily, and even does so before school in the mornings. He spends every cent he gets on seed and bread for the birds, but added some people are not so nice to the ducks, throwing rocks and them and trying to scare them.
“They weren’t as afraid last year,” he said. “I used to feed them out of my hand no problem last year.”
The Grade 11 student said people have given him sacks of seed and money to buy food for them.
He added feeding them gets costly.
“They are bottomless pits,” he said. “You could feed them and feed them and feed them.
But you need to stop sometime.
“Seed is their favourite. You throw it out and they are all over the place.”
He gets the ducks wholegrain bread with seeds in it as it is better for them and easier to eat.
“The little teal duck, because they are so small, they usually take it and it’s hard for them to rip a little piece off, even if it’s only small because they can’t get it down,” he said.
His father is expecting him to name them.
“They are just like your pets,” Travis said, adding naming them would be near to impossible.
He said there are many visitors to the pond and a lot of people like to feed the ducks and bring their children to do the same.
“A lot of people come up and they are astonished, they are amazed by it,” he said. “They can’t believe it. They are always out there laughing. They talk to me and I usually tell them what kind of species they are and how long they’ve been there.
“It’s a great experience. A lot of people don’t get up to wild ducks like that.”
He has a hunting tent back in the woods behind his home where he feeds other small animals. But feeding animals is just part of his hobby – photography is the other.
“I like to have feeding stations where I go for photography as well,” he said.
He gave a photo album of pictures he has taken to his grandmother when she was ill.
He said, “This is for you Nan. You can’t got out to see it so I will bring it in to you.”
His pictures show many species of birds including many species of ducks, the common red pole, woodpeckers, goose hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, merlin hawks, merlins, pigeons, white-winged crossbill, different gulls herring gull, ring-bill gull, laughing gulls, common tern, loons, blue jays and gray jays, mourning dove and common grackle to name a few.
He has also been caring for an injured pigeon for over a year, and has a home set up for it in his shed.
Travis said a lot of people after looking at his album cannot believe how many different species there are in the area.
“A lot of these are just around the bird feeder and most of them are year-round, like the American gold finch,” he said, adding a lot of people take down their bird feeders in the winter thinking birds won’t be around, but a lot of flocks are around in the winter months.
How does he know so much about the birds?
“I take the time to study all these,” he said. “I figure out all about them, where they go, what they eat so I can find out how to get a picture of them. I find out how to tell them all apart and all the information about them.
“I had no trouble learning because I enjoyed it so much. Ever since I was a kid I saw Steve Irwin on TV and I always loved the animals. I always had a fascination for them.
He said it all comes down to patience and a love for animals.
“I love to feed the animals,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone to hurt tem. I just like to show people that nature is beautiful. I like for everyone, young people especially, to know that nature is beautiful.”