Monday, February 1, 2010

Idaho Birder: Peggy Williams

Peggy Williams
Nampa, Idaho

How and when did you get first get involved in birding? What was your “Spark Bird”?

When I realized that the black birds in my North Dakota backyard were grackles and not blackbirds I decided I needed to study. I took advantage of a great opportunity in Tucson by enrolling in a bird identification class when my husband and I retired and started traveling full-time in an RV.

Did you or do you have a birding mentor and can you tell us about that person?

I have had several people along the way that have been a tremendous help. One is Debra Corpora of Rockport, TX. We spent parts of three winters in that area.

How long have you been birding in Idaho?

I birded in Idaho whenever we came to visit family. We moved into a house here in 2007 so this is where I do most of my birding now.

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

Not nearly often enough. I make most of the SIBA field trips and try to spend time at Deer Flat NWR and Wilson Spring Ponds.

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

I don't really have any favorites in Idaho yet but the Texas gulf coast and southeastern Arizona are my U.S. favorites.

Where in Idaho would you say is the most under-birded place that may have great untapped potential?

I think Gray's Lake NWR and the surrounding valley may be under-birded. We volunteered there and I enjoyed the variety. There are lots of nesting raptors in addition to the nesting cranes, curlews, willets, gulls and passerines.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, a “chaser”, all of the above, or something else?

All of the above, although only a moderate chaser.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I have Swarovski EL 8.5x42 binoculars and a small Leupold 15-45x60mm spotting scope. I use a small Sony camera to occasionally digi-scope, but it's not a priority with me.

How do you keep track of your bird observations? And why?

I use AviSys software. I started that when we were traveling and it was fun to compare trip lists when we returned to some areas.

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

Finally finding the Elegant Trogon that winters in Patagonia State Park in Arizona. It took more than one trip but when we found him he sat still for us for several minutes.

Which birding publications do you read and recommend?

I read "Bird Watcher's Digest", "Birder's World" and "Audubon".

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I really like the Sibley guide with its illustrations of juveniles but my favorite is my 2nd edition of "Birds of North America" from National Geographic. It is outdated when it comes to splits but it has my life list and notes I took in classes in Texas. I have several others but keep coming back to these two.

Which five books from your personal birding library would you recommend?

"The Smithsonian Handbook: Birds of North America, Western Region"
"The Birder's Handbook" by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye
"The Singing Life of Birds" by Kroodsma
"Guide to National Wildlife Refuges" by Laura and William Riley
"Mind of the Raven" by Heinrich.

Do you have any formal bird-related education background?

I have a teaching minor in biology but didn't concentrate on ornithology and if fact taught math most of my years in teaching. Have been lucky enough to advantage of some informal classes along the way.

Where did you live during your teaching days?

I taught in Pocatello and Boise before we moved to Bismarck, ND. I taught there, and in Dickinson and Selfridge, ND.

What future birding plans do you have?

In April I'm looking forward to a trip to Rockport, TX for spring migration to see those eastern warblers. Some day I want to do some birding in Central America.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations?

I'm on the board doing publicity for SIBA and am a member of Golden Eagle Audubon. I take part in the Project FeederWatch.

What is your nemesis bird?

That is birds, I have never seen a Gyrfalcon or a Goshawk and I would like to see more owls. Pelagics will probably excape me.

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

My husband is a reluctant birder but does go with me occasionally. He has finally added a few birds to his watercolor subject list.  Here are a couple samples of his watercolors (click to enlarge):

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

It's funny now but at the time not so much. My husband was helping me launch a borrowed kayak into a Mississippi bayou and I ended up in the water, binoculars, guide book and all. Did see my first Clapper Rail after changing clothes and restarting the outing however.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

Thanks to our ten years of travel I have had the opportunity to bird coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada. I wish I could do it all over again and spend more time birding.

Total life list? 520

Most exotic place you’ve gone birding?

Since most of my time has been in the ABA area I would have to say the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.

Your mission in life as birder?

To enjoy, hopefully educate and turn at least one of my eight grandchildren into an avid birder.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post! I'm glad you included the paintings. Peggy seems like a person I would like to know and I now live in one of her favorite birding places! I would love to have the opportunity to bird coast to coast. Since I have lived in many states I have seen lots of birds but I only started eBirding 2 years ago so I missed a lot of opportunites. I have a lot of catching up to do! I wish Peggy many more happy days of birding and I hope she does turn at least one of her grandchildren into an avid birder. I am working on the same goal!