"I need to keep the fire going. I did it last year," said Declan, who was participating in Bird Extravaganza for the second year.

Girl Scout Kristen Metzler, 10, of Timonium, sat at a table in the tent, coloring in birds on paper. Charlotte Galley, 12, of Bare Hills, made bird feeders of lard, pinecones and other materials.

TU science professor Cody Sandifer brought his sons, Shea, 15, a Towson High School freshman, and Cole, 11, who goes to Ridgley Middle School.

"Shea might volunteer," his father said.

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Later, on a bird walk, handyman Chris Davidson, 58, of Riderwood handed his binoculars to eight-year-old Kate Weetenkamp, of Towson, for her to see birds he had already spotted.

Kate, her twin brother, Henry, 8, who is a Cub Scout, and their sister, Avery, 6, come to the park often with their father, John, a business development official for Stanley Black & Decker.

But, said their dad, "We need to see what you don't normally see on a regular walk. It's amazing what you see when you know what you're looking for."

Even passersby were hooked.

"I can't run without stopping to look," said a jogger, Rob Hagan, 37, of Mount Washington, as he took a break to watch Bubo, the owl.

Hagan didn't know the event was happening, but said he often bird-watches in the park.

"You should come at the crack of dawn. That's when you see the most birds," Hagan said. "The early bird catches the worm."