1. Hooked on birding:
a. How you became interested in bird watching. During
my junior year at CSU Stanislaus as a Biology major the only upper division
class I could squeeze into my schedule was Ornithology. I became fascinated by
the diversity of birds as I attempted to identify as well as memorize to order
and family 200 species for the in-field lab final. I really became hooked when I
went on my first non-school field trip. A birder from San Joaquin County (about
my same age) was leading a spring trip to Caswell State Park. As we walked along
he would pause, listen intently, and comment "there's a such-and-such bird
singing over here, let's see if we can get a look at it". I was amazed that
someone could identify so many birds without seeing them. That field trip leader
was David Yee.
b. What you did to increase your bird identification
skills. I bought every field guide I could find. Eventually I met Harold Reeve
and I tried to go out with him every chance I got. When I joined the Stanislaus
Audubon Society I ended up volunteering to lead some field trips. I think
leading the field trips made me pay closer attention to the field marks and
habits of birds.
What took me to the next level, so to speak, was a
simple comment my wife made to me one day at Moss Landing State Beach. I had my
telescope out and was identifying a few shorebirds for her (she was a neophyte
at the time) and we came across a shorebird that I couldn't identify. I
commented simply, "I don't know what it is". I was happy to move on and look for
something that I could identify and she stopped me and said, "Well, you've got
your field guide, you have a really good look at it, shouldn't you take a few
minutes and figure out what it is?" The rest is history.
c. Why you continue to enjoy bird watching. Birding
allows me to be in the outdoors in some really neat habitats (especially those
sewage ponds!), I can satisfy my love of photography and I just think birds are
cool to look at.
2. Field of Dreams:
a. Share one of your memorable birding experiences in
Stanislaus or Merced County. One morning Dave Froba and I were following up on a
Lark Bunting report from Jeff Brown out on Crabtree Rd. He had reported a male
in mostly breeding plumage. We pulled up to the spot and I quickly spotted "the
bunting". I called out, "it's on the wire between those two fence posts". Dave
commented that it certainly was a nice looking male Lark Bunting. I scratched my
head as "the bird" was obviously a female with only a tiny black malar stripe.
"Dave, that is obviously NOT a male!" Dave responds, "Of course it is, look at
all that black on it!" It finally dawned on me that we were looking at two
b. Identify a birding location in Stanislaus or
Merced County that you enjoy going to and explain why you like to bird there. In
the winter I just love driving the green rolling hills along Crabtree,
Warnerville and Willms Rd. Once while leading a symposium field trip out there
we had both eagles; Ferruginous, Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, Northern
Harrier, White-tailed Kite as well as American Kestrel, Merlin and Prairie
Falcon all at the same stop.
c. Identify a birding spot outside of Stanislaus or
Merced County that you enjoy going to and explain why you like to bird there. I
am hopelessly hooked on birding the High Island/Galveston Area TX in spring.
There's nothing like having Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted
Grosbeaks, Blackburnian Warblers and more in the same
3. A Few of My Favorite Things:
a. Pick 2 or 3 Stanislaus or Merced County bird
species and explain why you look forward to seeing them. My favorite birds are
usually the marsh birds. I really enjoy a quiet morning sitting in some wetlands
while being serenaded by Marsh Wrens, Soras, Virginia Rails and American
b. What bird species that you have not already seen
in Stanislaus or Merced County would you would like to find next? I guess
Yellow-billed Cuckoo would be number one on my list.
c. What is your favorite bird field guide that you
take with you in the field (or have in your car)? I prefer the National
Geographic Guide but I also have the Sibley Western Guide as well.
d. What kind of equipment (binoculars, telescopes,
cameras, etc.) do you take along with you while birding? My bins are Pentax 10 x
42; I have a Swarovski scope and I almost always have my Canon camera with my
100-400 IS lens.
4. Dear Abby:
a. What advice would you give to a new bird watcher?
First, find an experienced birder that's willing to have you tag along and make
every effort to go with them whenever they go in the field. Second, pick a
handful of new birds that are likely to be in your area for the next month and
try to learn their field marks and calls. Start off with the common birds. get
to know them very well before moving on to the empids and such.
b. What suggestions would you give to a parent to
help them encourage their children to become bird watchers? Demonstrate to them
how much enjoyment you get out of birding. Be cautious however to not drag them
along with you when you are chasing something special or are on a big day or
CBC. They will most likely get bored and then consider it a drag to have to tag
along. Try to have resources available to them should the interest arise.