An oasis for birds and bird watchers, all for the Alexanders

2012-07-02T08:00:00Z 2014-07-10T15:53:05Z An oasis for birds and bird watchers, all for the AlexandersBy ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Irene and George Alexander spent countless hours banding and photographing birds in Pioneers Park.

Irene Alexander told Dave Titterington, a former naturalist and now volunteer at the Chet Ager Building, she quit counting how many she banded after she hit 28,000.

Once, she banded an eastern kingbird -- her favorite -- that was caught two years later on the banks of the Amazon River.

Her husband often helped her net and band the birds, and, by his estimate, he has more than 20,000 images.

"They were such bird dedicators," said Nancy Furman, coordinator of the Pioneers Park Nature Center.

Said Titterington, who owns the Wild Bird Habitat Stores in Lincoln: "I told Irene my next project is to redo the bird garden and have it named after you and George."

Titterington said he was glad to take on the job of turning a wild patch of native plants and bird feeders into an oasis for birds and bird watchers.

"They have a long history out here," he said of the Alexanders, who are both 90. "These people are special; extremely special."

A planning meeting was held in late January with other members of the Alexander family, who donated $3,000 to buy shrubbery, grasses and other plants for the new garden.

The city put in some matching funds and others including the nature center's maintenance crew donated labor. Construction began in May.

One of the biggest contributions came from Bryan Huntington of The Pond Center in Lincoln, who installed a waterfall at a reduced cost. It is the focal point of the bird garden. Wild Bird Habitat Stores worked with the nature center on the project, which was designed by local landscape architect Corey Haselhorst.

The garden was opened to the public after a private unveiling and dedication for George and Irene Alexander on Saturday.

About 80,000 visitors drive "the loop" in Pioneers Park each year to see bison and elk, Furman said, and about half of them stop at the nature center, which includes the Chet Ager Building. Admission is free.

Bird garden visitors will see water gurgle and flow from a huge mound made of boulders, plenty of native plants and cultivars that will change color with the seasons and provide food for a large assortment of birds.

"This is going to be beautiful in the winter," Furman said. "There's no better place to be -- to just sit here and watch 12 cardinals come in."

Guests aren't allowed to walk through the garden, but they can watch birds from inside Chet Ager or through special "bird holes" in a nearby fence, built mostly for children and not-so-tall adults.

The goal of the garden is to teach people about avian species and encourage them to build wildlife habitat areas in their backyards.

"This place meant a lot to them," Irene Alexander's nephew Roger Hirsch said.

He said his aunt, a retired English teacher, not only knows a lot about birds but also about native plants and grasses. George Alexander, a retired history and shop teacher, shares her love of nature.

"It's all about Irene and George," Hirsch said.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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