Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birder Profile: Larry (Brownstone Birder)

Brownstone Birder
Portland, Connecticut
 How did you get into birding? Did you have a "spark-bird"?

I started out by looking for Bald Eagles along the Connecticut River during the winter. I thought it was really amazing that when I found out you could see eagles in Connecticut. A couple of years after that I started to carry my binoculars along with me when I would go hiking so that I could try to identify birds.

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

One of the trip leaders for the Hartford Audubon helped me out by showing me new places and filling me in on the basics of birding.

How long have you been birding?

I’m not exactly sure, but I think it was about 2004 that I really started to get into it.

How often do you go birding?

Mostly just Saturdays, Sundays and any days I have off.

Where do you regularly go birding?

Wangunk Meadows is the place I go birding most often because it is local and can be good.

Where is your favorite place to bird in your state/province, USA?

Hammonasset is one of my favorite spots. I haven’t done much traveling outside of northern New England but I was able to see some boreal species while on vacation in Northern New Hampshire and Vermont.

Do you have any local birding hotspots that may be yet unknown to other birders that you would be willing to share with us?

I know plenty out-of-the-way places where you can find some of the less common species but they probably wouldn’t qualify as hotspots. Most of Connecticut’s hotspots are known by some birders or are in one of the two bird finding guides for CT (Finding Birds In Connecticut and A Connecticut Birding Guide).  Glastonbury Meadows is a real hotspot that has been under-birded, but has become better known in recent years.

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

Watcher would be the closest description but I probably use my ears as much as I use my eyes. I will chase a reported rare species if it interests me and isn’t more than an hour’s drive. I’m not interested in listing with the exception of my life list or doing a Big January. It’s good to break out of your usual routine to explore different aspects of birding now and then. I enjoy seeing the excitement that takes place at the viewing area of where a rare bird is being viewed. Mostly, birding is a way for me to enjoy nature and take a break from the daily grind of a work week.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

At the moment I am using Meopta Meostar 8x42 binoculars. They don’t have the name recognition of other top brands but they are just as good as the other big name European optics. I have a Panasonic FZ35 18x zoom camera and a Vortex spotting scope which is very good for a budget scope.

How do you keep track of your bird observations?

Initially, I kept track of everything in a notebook and then added it to listing software but decided this wasn’t necessary. Now I keep track of what I see in a notebook and sometimes enter information on eBird if I see something rare or want to provide more information about a lesser known area.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I use Sibley’s because he uses sketches instead of photos and the majority of birders I know in Connecticut this is their go-to field guide. If a bird is in question it makes a discussion easier. I also like the Kaufman and Peterson’s guides.

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

Most of the birding books I’ve read are in the Public Library not mine. The ones that I remember most are: Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman-very entertaining.  Some of the books by Pete Dunne-(don’t remember the titles), and The Complete Birder by Jack Connor was a great book to read when I first started birding.

What future birding plans do you have?

I’d like to continue to explore lesser known places, locate areas where I can get close-up to birds without being detected for photo opportunities, and try to help people who may be interested in birding.

What is your nemesis bird?

I’ll say Black-backed Woodpecker

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

My wife’s name is Joan and she has been very supportive of my bird-related ventures. She mostly enjoys watching birds at the feeders but will occasionally join me for some active birding during nicer weather.

If you were a bird, which species would you be and why?

A parrot or an Albatross. They are some of the longest living birds-estimated at 50 + years.

Total life list?

My life list is almost entirely in Connecticut. My list is in a field guide at my cousin’s house right now but it’s about 275.

Any funny birding experiences?

When I first saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron perched in a tree I had no idea what it was. It was perched in a tree near the Connecticut River within close walking distance of where I live. I jotted down a description of what I saw and then went tearing through the bushes to run back to my house for a throw-away camera that I had. My neighbors saw me and probably thought there must have been something terribly wrong. The photo of the night-heron was about the size of an ant when I developed it but I was able to make the identification by comparing notes and sketch to the field guide. It was after that experience that I bought my first super zoom camera.

You can continue to follow Larry's birding adventures at:

The Brownstone Birding Blog

Birder Profile is a weekly blog segment at "Birding is Fun!" spotlighting a fellow birder.  If you would be interested in sharing a little about yourself and your birding experiences, please send me an email.  Is there a birder you'd like to see featured?  Please nominate that person by sending me an e-mail too.  Enthusiasm for birding is the only prerequisite!

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