Monday, December 14, 2009

Idaho Birder: Terry Gray

Terry Gray
Moscow, Idaho

How and when did you get your start in birding?

I became interested in birds at an early age. Living in the country near Sandpoint, Idaho I was always out doors. My parents had a fruit orchard and in the spring I was always watching the hummingbirds work the tree blossoms. Also during the summer I was always watching for the Common Nighthawks that would hunt over our property.

How long have you been birding in Idaho?
 Been an active back-yard birder all my life and became a serious birder about 10 to 11 years ago.

How often do you go birding? And where do you regularly go birding?

Since I retired from the University of Idaho (classified staff) 3 years ago I bird almost every day. I like to spend time at the University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden and Virgil Phillips Farm County Park which is just 5 miles north of Moscow. Both locations provide me the opportunity for a good walk and the opportunity to see birds, wildlife, plants and insects that I am interested in photographing.

Where is your favorite place to bird in Idaho? In the U.S.? in the world?

I wish I had been a birder when I was in the United States Navy but I was not, so most if not all my birding has been local. My favorite place to bird by far is Mann Lake in the Lewiston Orchards. I have developed a check list for the lake that has 206 species. I have seen all the species except one that is listed in the Idaho Birders Guide.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, both, or something else?

I think in some ways I am part of a new generation of birders. Since I have a passion for birding and a larger passion for photography, do most of my birding by camera. I have learned more by taking photos of birds and nature in general and taking my photos back to my computer to analize what I have observed each day and my photos become a journal of each day that I spend with nature. (Check out Terry's photography on FlickrI do list most of my bird sightings so others interested have the opportunity to see the same birds I observe.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I have never been one to spend to much money to do anything so I use an inexpensive pair of binoculars and spotting scope and even my camera is a point and shoot Sony.

How do you keep track of your bird observations?

I keep a first sighting list of the birds I see using eBird and also a paper copy that I use to keep track of any new bird species I find throughout the year.

What is your favorite bird sighting and what is the story behind it?

This question is like 'what is your favorite bird?'. Well, I have no favorite bird sighting and whatever bird I am looking at at the time is my favorite. They are all individuals and unique.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I refer to Sibley, National Geographic, Kaufman and Peterson field guides for general bird id help and “A photographic Guide to North American Raptors” by Brian K Wheeler and William S Clark for Raptors and like “Peterson Reference Guides Gulls of the Americas”.

All the guides are little different and sometimes I have to look at all of them to figure out what I am observing so I use them all. I like for quick reference the larger Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of North America the best.

What do you have in your home library birding reference set?

The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds

Do you have any formal bird-related education background? If so, what is it?

I do not. After graduating from Sandpoint High School I joined the U.S. Navy and spent 8 years affiliated with submarines spending 5 years aboard a Thresher Class Submarine during Vietnam and 3 years sending enlisted personnel to nuclear submarines.

If a fellow birder had a question about a bird, do you consider yourself an expert (or at least proficient) on any specific family of birds?

Since I have been the president of Palouse Audubon for the past 5 years I get questions all the time from people about birds and I feel confident in answering their questions.

Any other thoughts on the past-time of birding? What do your foresee in the future of birding?

I think that birding is going to change with climate change happening we as birders have to have a more open mind about what our fellow birders are seeing. Since I have been birding there are three new species that have moved into this area and not to long ago we quit seeing species in this area to habitat change and climate change.

What is your nemesis bird?

American Bittern (eBird map of northwestern states)

What is/was your career?

I spent have my 31 years at the University of Idaho running off-set presses and the other half working the front dest at the main print shop at the University.

Anything about your family you’d like to share with us?

Just an only child and a native of Idaho.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about? Year list?

Nothing to brag about since I mainly am a local birder. I usually get about 240 species of birds each year and they for the most part are observed within 130 miles of Moscow. Most years I see a few birds in Washington or Oregon that I do not see in Idaho but usually only a couple that I do not get in Idaho.

While on the submarine I was attached to I was involved as ships photographer and we developed a bracket that we could mount a camera to the periscope replacing the eye piece and were the first ship to take photos through the periscope using the scope optics as the camera optics. It was great fun shooting photos through the scope.

Idaho not only had a native son invent the television, but we can also boast that one of our own was the first Digiscoper!

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