Clinton 9-year-old shares his love of birds on ‘BirdNote’

Nine-year-old Corbin Klaft said he likes the chickadees that visit his backyard birdfeeders, though the Great Blue Heron that lives high in a nearby tree bugs him a little bit.

Corbin Klaft stands in front of the bird feeders that hang outside his room; a perfect spot for viewing birds.

Nine-year-old Corbin Klaft said he likes the chickadees that visit his backyard birdfeeders, though the Great Blue Heron that lives high in a nearby tree bugs him a little bit.

“He flies by our house and makes a really annoying sound — like geese but 10 times louder,” Corbin said.

“I call him the living alarm clock because he used to wake us all up. That big blue heron thinks he’s a rooster,” he added.

The South Whidbey Elementary student recently became interested in birds when he built a birdhouse to hang outside the Glendale Beach home where he lives with his family.

“It all started when I hung the birdhouse, but the birds didn’t come,” Corbin said.

He enlisted the help of his grandfather, Langley resident Phillip Mendoza, who showed Corbin the trick of hanging some bird feeders with just the right seeds to attract birds.

“Then the birds started coming like crazy! What I mostly got was chickadees and towhees,” said the budding birdwatcher.

News of Corbin’s newly discovered hobby was heard by Chris Peterson, the executive producer of “BirdNote,” a daily radio show about wild birds and their habitats that can be heard each morning at 8:58 a.m. on its flagship station, 88.5 FM KPLU, and other on public radio stations across the country.

Corbin was one of a group of 12 folks interviewed for a special BirdNote series inspired by the enterprising birding activities of Whidbey Islanders. Corbin’s show will air at 8:58 a.m. on KPLU on Friday, Feb. 24.

In celebration of its Whidbey Island stories, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts will present “Come Celebrate Whidbey with BirdNote,” an evening dedicated to locals who have inspired stories for BirdNote at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10.

Peterson will emcee the evening along with BirdNote theme music composer Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler, producer of BirdNote and KPLU’s host of “All Blues.”

The audience will be treated to the story of how Dr. Mark Borden of Coupeville converted his horse fence to a hotel for swallows; how Heidi Hoelting of Clinton discovered 17 variations in the song of a sparrow; and how author and South Whidbey Record columnist Frances Wood and friends are tracking the habits of Pigeon Guillemots on Double Bluff Beach.

The radio shows will also reveal what Corbin has in mind for the birds of his backyard and what the Whidbey Camano Land Trust is doing to encourage the restoration of bird habitat.

Corbin is well into his love affair with birds by now and said, since he lives by the beach, he doesn’t see any woodpeckers, but he has really enjoyed seeing all the towhees and the many eagles.

“There are tons of eagles by our house,” Corbin said.

“Once we saw an eagle swoop down on what looked like a seal who was getting a fish. There was a battle between the eagles and the seals over the fish,” he said.

Back at his Grandpa Phil’s house in Langley, Corbin said, “The birds go berserk over there. There’s one little teensy problem — actually it’s a big problem — hawks! They sweep down and eat the little birds.”

Corbin is most certainly hooked on looking out for what flies in the skies. The same kind of infectious love of birdwatching has made BirdNote a sensation.

Founded by Peterson eight years ago, BirdNote is heard by more than a million listeners and all of its more than 1,000 shows may be heard at BirdNote keeps its headquarters on Whidbey Island, is recorded in Seattle and derives its bird sounds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y.

As executive director of Tune In to, the organization that produces BirdNote, Peterson continues her deep interest in creating ways for people to learn what birds reveal about the complexity of the natural world. Having been the director of Seattle Audubon for nine years, she is keen to see the Audubon movement grow.

The WICA evening will begin with a reception featuring bird-related fine art at 6:15 p.m. preceding the performance. Also featured will be the photography of Craig and Joy Johnson, live music by Trio Nouveau, singer Kate Wright and guitarist David Licastro.

“The people, the birds and the places of Whidbey have some amazing stories to tell. Join us to celebrate them and come early for the art,” Peterson said.

Corbin has a good reason why folks should listen to him on the radio.

“The more that people know about me, the better,” he said.

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts by phone, 221-8268 or 800-638-7631. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit


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