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A Field Guide to Fellsmere

Birding expert David Simpson is flying high when sharing his avian knowledge

Though it can exceed a height of 4 feet, the graceful great blue heron weighs only 5 to 6 pounds.

Though it can exceed a height of 4 feet, the graceful great blue heron weighs only 5 to 6 pounds.

Imagine a 4-year-old boy gazing at a ruby-throated hummingbird. The boy stares in wonder at the way the bird hovers like a helicopter, and at the iridescence of its feathers as they sparkle in the sunlight. It is the beginning of a lifelong love of birding.

That boy was David Simpson, and today he is a birding guide who shares his knowledge of avian life in the marshes of Fellsmere, as well as in other parts of Florida, through individual and group tours.

Simpson has also worked as a ranger at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. Along with his wife, Dee Fairbanks Simpson, who is an expert birder in her own right as well as a skilled nature photographer, he is involved in birding events such as the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, the Everglades Birding Festival and the Big “O” (Lake Okeechobee) Birding Festival. Simpson describes his profession as “bird guide and consultant” — the latter term sounding like the birding equivalent of Sherlock Holmes’ profession of “consulting detective.”

But it all began with the ruby-throated hummingbird.

That was Simpson’s earliest memory of a bird. The hummingbird was a male, his feathers glittering like rubies and emeralds. “He was doing his little thing, hovering, flying sideways. Somehow I knew what a ruby-throated hummingbird was at the time,” Simpson recalls. “This was my first life bird.” At the age of 4, he had begun his “life list” of species seen and identified.