Monday, January 22, 2007

A little about me

First shot at something like this so it willl not be terribly interesting, but here we go.

I've been thinking about doing this for a while, primarily to post about my birding and trip reports, but as with any blogs, I'll probably babble about whatever I feel like.

I think that by way of introduction (and simply to start with something) I'll start the blog with an article I wrote some time ago for the newsletter of the NH Audubon Seacoast Chapter:

A Fanatics Confession

OK, I admit it. I have a problem. I caught the birding bug a few years ago, and it’s been a slippery slope ever since. Some people seem to have been born birders, expressing interest before they can remember - their first word being ‘bird’ or ‘ammodramus caudacutus’ or something like that. That is not my story. Oh sure, like any kid I was thrilled when a Cardinal landed in the backyard. But, the first “experience” that put me on the road to being a birder occurred some years ago when a friendly gentleman allowed me to look through his spotting scope at a Red-tailed hawk with chicks on a nest. That very day I went out and bought my first pair of binoculars and a field guide. (Notice the word ‘first’.) Not really knowing much about birds, I just went out when I had free time, binoculars slung around my neck, looking at whatever moved then furiously flipping through my photo guide and trying to convince myself that what I saw matched the picture in the book. The bait was on the hook.
Some time later, I happened to go to Florida on vacation with my significant other, and we visited the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. At the refuge headquarters, I learned about the birds that could be found there, and the moment I stumbled across the picture of the Roseate Spoonbill, I knew I had to see this bird. In retrospect, I guess this was the first bird I chased, because I did not see it that day, or the next day, or the day after that. I went back every day of our vacation until I found it, and it was spectacular. From that moment on, I was hooked. When we got home, I started doing a bit of research. I picked up birding-related magazines, and discovered a whole new world. I started to learn about the differences between optics (and why my first pair were not a good choice if I was going to pursue this hobby more seriously), about what to look for in field guides (again, another poor first choice on my part), and most importantly, more about the birds themselves. I joined my local Audubon Societies, birding clubs, etc, and started going on field trips - anything that would help me see and learn more. I started keeping lists of what I’d seen - day lists, state lists, a life list. Weekends seemed to be made especially for birding. I ‘invested’ in better binoculars, then a spotting scope. I signed onto e-mail lists, so I would know what was being seen and where. The hobby developed into a full-blown obsession. Seeing a local rarity was exciting, a bird that had been blown off-course that had no business being where it was. I’d get in the car and drive six hours one-way to see a bird. But that wasn’t good enough - I wanted to see these birds in their natural environment, interacting with others - I didn’t want one Sandhill Crane, I wanted thousands! Of course this meant traveling. Places that I’d not heard of, nor cared about, several years ago now became priority locations to visit. I’ve traveled more this past calendar year to see birds, than I had in my entire life before I ever identified a warbler on my own. This has all happened in just a few short years, and there are no signs of my slowing down anytime soon. Little did that first gentleman know what he did, when he invited me to look through his scope... or maybe he did. I’m not sure I would even recognize him now if I ran into him, but wherever he is, I want to thank him for passing on the bug - and enriching my life.