Friday, April 30, 2010

Idaho Birding Hotspot: Silver Creek Preserve

I have read quite a bit about Silver Creek Preserve and knew it would be a great place to go birding in Idaho.  I follow Matt Miller's blog Idaho Nature Notes of The Nature Conservancy.  I know of anglers that love this place.  After seeing the Hooded Crane near Carey Lake WMA, we stopped by Silver Creek Preserve.  It really is a spectacular place with a great variety of habitat which host a great variety of birds.  The birding was great yesterday and can only image how good it will be in May and June.  Because of Silver Creek's location it has a bit of a later start on Spring as compared to the Boise area, so it had not really greened-up there yet, but I came away very impressed.  Here are some photos:

Visitor's Center and trailhead

Sandhill Cranes

View from the trail overlooking wetlands

Willet - bobbing for food

Yellow Warbler

Thursday, April 29, 2010

210 in 2010: eBird Idaho - Week 17

For those of you checking into the Idaho Birding Blog for the first time, I am hosting a little competition to see who can be the first eBirder in Idaho to see "two-ten in twenty-ten", that is 210 species of birds this year!  A second part of the competition is to see who can submit the most checklists to eBird by the 210th day of the year (July 29th).  Here are the rules of the game.

The eBird team and KAYTEE have been very supportive of this effort to encourage birders to be eBirders and are donating $210 worth of cash or prizes to the winners!  So far, we have quadrupled the number of Idaho checklists submitted to eBird.

Here is the current leader board...

Species Leaders:
1.  J Harry Krueger 184
2.  Steve Butterworth 171
3.  Jay Carlisle 169
4.  Heidi Ware 168
5.  Darren Clark 167
6.  Cheryl Huizinga 163
7.  Lynn Davenport 157
8.  Terry Gray 152
9.  Zeke Watkins 148
10.  Robert Mortensen 143

Checklist Leaders:
1.  Robert Mortensen 413 (not eligible to win)
2.  Jackson Whitman 319
3.  Cheryl Huizinga 180
4.  Lew Ulrey 177
5.  Charles Swift 175
6.  Lynn Davenport 125
7.  J Harry Krueger 109
8.  Steve Butterworth 104
9.  Rohn McKee 103
10.  Terry Gray 102
10.  Jonathan Stoke 102

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Idaho Camera Birding Photo Competition

Have you taken a picture of a bird in Idaho in the last year that you are really proud of and would like to share? Well...

Introducing the Idaho Camera Birding Photo Competition!

The Idaho Birding Blog is honored to host this new quarterly photography competition sponsored by Idaho Camera.  This photo competition is free and open to birders and photographers from all over the world, yet focused on birds and birding in Idaho. Submissions by youth, novices, amateurs, and professionals are all welcome.  The purpose of this competition is to get people outdoors exploring scenic Idaho, to enjoy birds and birding through photography, and to learn how to do it better.  There will be a really nice prize for the winner!

For more details, please check out Idaho Camera Birding Photo Competition page.

If you know a birder or photographer that you think might enjoy participating, please forward this info to them!

Virginia Rail at Carey Lake WMA, Idaho

While checking out the Hooded Crane at Carey Lake Wildlife Management Area, I also had the chance to photo a very cooperative Virginia Rail.  I laid down on my stomach to get on its level and took tons of pictures.  Here are a couple of them that I thought turned out pretty good.  None of these are cropped or color enhanced.  These are just the raw photos straight from the camera.

Because the rail came up so close I was able to fill the frame...too much so in some cases.  I read recently that one should keep the eye in focus and the rest of the photo will take care of itself.  Well, you can see that I was working really hard to keep that eye the center of my focus, but because of that I ended up cutting off part of the bird with my shot.  Still, I am very happy with the detail in the photographs of this Virginia Rail.  They make for a good plumage and coloration study of this fun little bird.

I also think its kind of cool to see the new cattail shoots coming up in this first picture.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hooded Crane near Carey, Idaho - Rare Bird Alert

After reading various reports on Idaho Birders Linked Electronically (IBLE) and seeing this sighting mentioned on the ABA's blog Peeps, I determined last night that I was going to go a-chasin'!  I called the guy that got me into birding (my father-in-law Lynn Davenport) and asked if he wanted to go.  He hadn't been online for a couple days and didn't know what all the fuss was about.  When I told him that it was a potential first North American record I didn't have to say another word.  He was coming!

We met at 4am at the Eagle Rd. Park-n-Ride and beelined it for Carey, Idaho where the Hooded Crane had been reported in the fields across from the Carey Lake Wildlife Management Area.  We made it there at 6:45am just as the Sun gave us sufficient light.  We parked at the WMA and I was immediately distracted by the calls of Sora and Virginia Rails.  We saw a couple Sandhill Cranes flyover.  We could hear them calling from the field.  Lynn pointed out that one sounded different.  He began scanning the field with binoculars while I was still trying to spy the Sora.  "I've got it!" hollered Lynn and I sprinted to where he was setting up his spotting scope.  We watched it for about an hour.  I shot dozens of photos with my new camera, but it was so far away that my 150mm lens just wasn't enough.  I took a few photos through Lynn's scope, but only the one above was decent enough to share.  We were pretty pumped and shared high-fives and exultant shouts!  What a cool bird.  And to think we may be in the first group of people to have ever seen the Hooded Crane in North America!  Special thanks to Jean Seymour and Poo Wright-Pulliam for sharing their discovery.  (Poo also discovered another rare Siberian bird in Idaho several years ago.  Read more at her Idaho Birder Profile page)

(Debate is in full motion as to whether this is indeed a wild Hooded Crane or an escapee.  You can follow what we are learning at IBLE.)

During that hour of Hooded Crane watching I also got some great photos of a Virginia Rail (post coming soon).  The Sora proved to be too elusive for the camera, though I did see its yellow bill through the reeds.

On the way home we made a couple very worthwhile side trips to Silver Creek Preserve, Hayspur Fish Hatchery, and Little Camas Reservoir.  We both added several first of year birds including Blue-winged Teal, Brewer's Sparrow, and Yellow Warbler.  I was in a hurry to get home and back to work, so I hope Lynn wasn't too disappointed that I didn't slow down for every puddle with a bird on it!  I did get to see a Caspian Tern and three Willets too for my Idaho eBird competition list.

Recent Idaho Birding and Photography

After reading The Big Year, and seeing mention of Boise's Hollilynn Drive, the location where Greg Miller and Al Levantin went to see Gray Partridges, I just had to check this place out for myself.  It also happens to be adjacent to the World Center for Birds of Prey which I had never before visited, but read a lot about.  Anyway, I did not find any Gray Partridges, but I did find this Chukar posing nicely for me on Hollilynn Drive.  The World Center for Birds of Prey is also a worthwhile stop for visitors to Boise and there are plans underway to make it even better in the very near future!

Last Sunday afternoon, I took my kids on a walk along Spring Valley Creek Trail to allow mom a much deserved nap.  A couple of highlights:  My 9 year old son Kyle carrying all three sisters across the creek so they wouldn't get wet.  And the Wild Turkey that flushed right in front of Victoria.  She was running up the trail ahead of us, rounded and corner and almost ran right into the Turkey.  I saw it fly across the creek and run up the hill, but didn't get a photo.  I thought it would have scared Victoria, but she was just so excited to have been the first one to find the Wild Turkey.  Also, I was delighted that Anne, almost 8, was identifying California Quail and the Red-tailed Hawks by sound without any prompting from me...and my kids just barely tolerate my birding!

This Red-tailed Hawk wasn't too happy that we walked under her nest.

This American Kestrel was posing nicely.  I just wished its head were turned the other way to be in the light rather than the shadow.  And I wish I could have been closer or had a higher powered lens.

I believe this is the male Swainson's Hawk of Avimor's mating pair.  Here he is perched on a snag near the dirt road.  He allowed me to approach fairly close, but eventually did fly off.  I captured the launch from his perch.  I love his posture in the air with his legs stretched out and wings arched above its head with the open sky as the background.  Too bad I missed having the focus on the bird to get the detail that would have made an okay photo into a spectacular photo, but hey, I'm still learning!

And finally, on another recent walk with my two youngest girls, we found a Say's Phoebe with nesting material in her beak.  "Girls! She's building a nest somewhere nearby.  Let's watch where she goes and we'll know where her nest is.  Within seconds she darted into the grated retention pond inlet.  There we found her nest right on top of the white pipe.  We'll keep watch for Say's Phoebe chicks in the coming weeks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Idaho Birder: Bob & Betty Davenport

Betty and Bob Davenport
Meridian, Idaho

How did you get into birding? 

Betty took ornithology in 1953 at the College of Idaho.

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

Dr Lyle Stanford, head of the biology department. He made me aware of our native wildlife and plants. The class was a filled in for an easy subject, yet it has lasted throughout my life. Most of the other subjects have been forgotten.

How long have you been birding in Idaho? 

Whenever we are in Idaho. Most of marriage we lived in the western United States. In 1995 we retired and moved into a motor home. Various jobs added to our income. We were camp hosts; hosts of Thousand Springs under Nature Conversancy, volunteer at Bill Williams, Cibola and Pahranagat NWRs and gave birding programs at the Salton Sea Recreational Area (State Park). Betty revised an out of date bird List for the Salton Sea State Park. My husband, Robert joined me in these activities. We did counts of birds in Camas County for 2 or 3 summers.

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

Health issues have cut off time for birding, but we try to take as many trips as we can. Whenever riding in a car we note birds around us. Hope to be able to take more trips this year.

Where is your favorite place to bird in Idaho?

Camas County

In the U.S.?

Pahranagat NWR

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

Camas County, Mormon Reservoir and Spring Creek Area

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

Camas County, Little Camas Reservoir, and Eastern Elmore County

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

A little of each, except not a chaser.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

Binocular, Spotting scope, books, camera sometimes.  Betty has watched birds most of life and didn’t keep records.  Sometime ago I realized the information would be of value so started to keep records for that reason.  We are not sure what our complete life bird list is and they are probably slightly different.

How do you keep track of your birding records?

We enter all out sightings on eBird now.

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

We counted birds for Pahranagat NWR for a number of years. One day while counting birds we saw a Peregrine Falcon on snag at the lower lake. We were watching when a flock of about 50 Avocets landed just off the point. In a few second the falcon lifted off his perch, hit one of the avocets in the back of the neck, flushing the flock. The avocet fell into the lake along with the falcon. The falcon pulled the bird out of the water and flew to his perch and began to consume his meal.

Another time at Upper Lake a Bald Eagle was chasing a large white bird. Both birds dropped into the lake and he eagle keep pushing the bird down into the water. Until the eagle left we couldn’t tell which bird it was. It turned out to be an egret.

Betty’s favorite Idaho memory would be in the mid-1940’s.  I went to Prairie, ID to see relatives. The Mountain Bluebird was everywhere. There were so many birds, I will never forget the sight. It must have been in the fall and the bluebirds were gathering before they left Idaho.

Another Idaho memory would be watching a pair of Trumpeter Swans raise 3 cygnets to fledging stage. We did not see the birds fly as we left the area for the south.

In 1953 for our term paper along with another student we found about an acre of ground partially covered with water. We mapped the area for all objects and visited the site weekly and did a written report of our sightings. We received an A on the project.

Which is your favorite field guide and why? 

Betty started with Roger Tory Peterson's first edition. We now use The Silbley Guide to Birds by David Sibley.

Which books from your personal birding library would you recommend? 

All the Birds of North America
North America Raptors, by Brian K. Wheeler and William S. Clark
Idaho Birding Trail
Ducks by John Gooders and Trevor Boyer.
And would not be without the Birder's Handbook by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye

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?

We do not consider ourselves experts; but willing to help anyone learn about birds and wildflowers.

What future birding plans do you have?

None at the moment, hope to take at least one trip to Camas County to check out the Spring Creek Trumpeter Swans and would like to visit Paharanagat again.

What is your nemesis bird? 

Blue Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak

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

My Father’s family homestead near Hill City and my Mother’s family on Fall Creek.  My High School Class will have its 60 reunion this fall.

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

In 1953 Dr Stanford had the entire class looking for the “rare” Black-necked Stilt. In 1985 traveling from Yuma, AZ to Hesperia, CA imagine my surprise to see flocks of more than 100 stilts. I still think of Black-necked Stilts as “rare”.

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

Betty - Lazuli Bunting, my favorite bird

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

In 2007 we were given a Lifetime Achievement Award for our work at Pahranagat NWR and other wildlife activities. It was a complete surprise to us.

Total life list?

eBird says 299, many of our early lists are not entered and it is probably higher.

Your mission in life as birder?

To enjoy birds and hope that they will be around awhile longer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Long-eared Owls at Avimor

I went to check on Avimor's Long-eared Owls this morning with a gentleman from Garden Valley who had never seen them before.  Momma was still hunkered down on her nest so low that you could barely see her ear tufts and one eye.  We were able to successfully find the mate as seen in the photo.  Boy they are hard to photograph!  He seems to be saying "I know its hard to see me, but I sure see you!"

Pheasants were calling and we flushed a pair of Gray Partridges.  We also saw some Nashville Warblers flitting about the tops of the Hackberry trees, which is a first of year bird for me!

International Migratory Bird Day - May 8th!

Some of our friends from the Idaho Bird Observatory will be there banding birds until around noon, so bring the kids and come and enjoy this great opportunity to see our favorite birds up close!

International Migratory Bird Poster
The theme of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) 2010 is " The Power of Partnerships in Bird Conservation".
While ongoing threats continue to endanger many of the nearly 350 species of birds that annually migrate between summer and winter habitats, conservation organizations, federal and state agencies, and individuals have shown that they can make a real difference.
Join the MK Nature Center staff educators, volunteers and partners for a day of learning activity stations, live bird presentations, birding walks, face painting, nature arts, wood carving demonstrations, netting and bird banding, prizes and fun for the entire family. Picnicking will be available. Our partners for 2010 include; Idaho Bird Observatory, Bureau of Land Management, Boise National Forest, Golden Eagle Audubon, Idaho Master Naturalist Sage Brush Steppe Chapter, Idaho Watchable Wildlife, Anser Charter School, Borah High school students and more.
Activity Schedule coming soon! We hope to see you here! Volunteers are being accepted for this event. Contact Cass Meissner.
  • Date: May 8, 2010.
  • Time: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Requested donation: $ 1.00 per person..

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leslie Gulch, Oregon - Hiking and Birding!

A group of Boy Scouts and leaders went to Leslie Gulch in Oregon Friday evening through Saturday afternoon for a campout and hiking.  It is about two hour drive from Eagle, Idaho.  Pictures from a pathetic wanna-be photographer can never convey the magnificence of such a place as this, so I post a couple photos just to whet your appetite to want to go there.  As with any adventure I am always looking and listening for birds.  Some of the people in our scout group loved to hear about what I was seeing and wanted to know more.  Others mocked.  Others ignored, but a few birds caught everybody's interest!

As we drove down the 25 mile stretch of dirt road off of Hwy 95, I saw Horned Larks, Meadowlarks, Starlings, and Killdeer.  As we entered Leslie Gulch we could see and hear Western Meadowlarks and we were lucky to have three Chukars cross the road in front of us.  As we cooked our tinfoil dinners on the coals, along with our campfire orange-chocolate cakes for dessert, we could hear a Great Horned Owl hooting from the rocky cliffs above. At one point we heard the owl screech.  These rock faces are full of holes and crevices and I can only assume that the Great Horned Owl was up in one of them and perhaps nesting.  

Around mid-night when we finally laid down to sleep, I enjoyed listening to the Great Horned Owl's prolonged hooting.  After a few minutes I heard the distinct cry of a rabbit in pain (the reason I know this sound goes back 20 years and is a whole other story).  The rabbit screamed in three rapid beats and was silenced.  I never heard the owl the rest of the night, so I figure it was enjoying its rabbit meal.

This morning we took the scouts on a hike up Juniper Gulch, a side gulch off of Leslie Gulch.  This was one of the most fantastic hikes I have ever enjoyed!  I didn't take my new camera as I was afraid of damaging it, but the scenery and rock formations on this hike were awe inspiring.  The hike is easy - mostly a sandy wash - and is accessible for active seniors and children.  It is a must-see location for anyone living in or visiting the Boise area. We also saw the resident Big Horned Sheep!

We didn't see a tremendous amount of birds, but the ones we did see were good ones, in that I don't regularly see them in my normal birding jaunts.  Bushtits, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-naped Sapsucker,  White-throated Swifts, Chukar, Prairie Falcons and the highlight, a Long-eared Owl.  Almost everybody in our group got to see it perched in the tree.  This is the first Long-eared Owl I have seen perched and it was fascinating to see its elongated and almost disproportionate body.  (Remember, my first Long-eared was only a month ago and since then I have found two more on my own without knowing they would be where I was looking! - the curse has been broken!)

It's just too bad Leslie Gulch is just a few miles across the Idaho border...I could have used a few of these birds for the Idaho eBird competition this year!

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Swallows can be overwhelming to identify, especially when they are flying around and not sitting still for you to pull out your favorite field guide and study their differences.  The other day I came upon this colony of Northern Rough-winged Swallows working on their nest cavities in a bank of dirt.  To identify Northern Rough-winged Swallows there are a few field marks are point out below, but the easiest characteristic is that they are really the only plain brown swallow that I know of in my area.  They are fun to watch and hard to photograph well.
(click on image to enlarge)

I kind of like how the broken-down lichen-covered fence post and wire are in the frame.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yellow-headed Blackbird

There were dozens of Yellow-headed Blackbirds around the town of Star, Idaho this morning.  I got this guy singing while perched on the ground.  The yellow contrasting with the black has always been eye-catching.  In flight there is nice patch of white too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

210 in 2010: eBird Idaho - Week 16

For those of you checking into the Idaho Birding Blog for the first time, I am hosting a little competition to see who can be the first eBirder in Idaho to see "two-ten in twenty-ten", that is 210 species of birds this year!  A second part of the competition is to see who can submit the most checklists to eBird by the 210th day of the year (July 29th).  Here are the rules of the game.

The eBird team and KAYTEE have been very supportive of this effort to encourage birders to be eBirders and are donating $210 worth of cash or prizes to the winners!  So far, we have quadrupled the number of Idaho checklists submitted to eBird.

Here is the current leader board...(names that are hyperlinked have been featured on my weekly blog segment the Idaho Birder Profile)

Species Leaders:
1.  Cheryl Huizinga 163
2.  J. Harry Krueger 161
3.  Jay Carlisle 158
4.  Steve Butterworth 157
4.  Lynn Davenport 157
4.  Heidi Ware 157
7.  Darren Clark 153
8.  Terry Gray 146
9.  Zeke Watkins 136
10.  Denise Hughes 133

Checklist Leaders:
1.  Robert Mortensen 385 (not eligible to win)
2.  Jackson Whitman 303
3.  Cheryl Huizinga 180
4.  Lew Ulrey 167
5.  Charles Swift 155
6.  Lynn Davenport 125
7.  Rohn McKee 96
8.  Steve Butterworth 95
9.  Jonathan Stoke 93
10.  Terry Gray 92

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: The Big Year

I had a great time reading "The Big Year".  It is an easy and quick read filled with great personalities, fast-paced adventure, rivalry, comedy, drama, failed romance, triumphant romance, enduring romance, rarity chasing, practical jokes, and the quirks of birding that we birders all love.  Mark Obmascik has a a very readable writing style (Mitch Albom-like but without too much of the mushy emotional stuff) that would make this book enjoyable for even non-birders.  I can totally see why some folks in Hollywood are looking at making a movie out of this book.

Obmascik paints a great picture of each of the characters.  I always love a book or TV show that captures unique and quirky personalities that you love and love to hate.  How true to reality his portraits of Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, and Greg Miller are?...who cares!  It was just a fun read.

And diatribe:

There seems to be a growing movement in the birding world to reject competitive birding and to treat it as an immoral practice.  For one to even think of keeping a life list or to have such goals as seeing 700 birds in one's lifetime is sinful and damned be their soul!  The new philosophy of elitist birding is that we should simply "observe birds because they are".  I get it, but I feel the competition still has its place in the arena of birding and birdwatching.  I've yet to meet a competitive birder that didn't love and enjoy each bird he or she has seen.

Listing motivates many to get out and find new birds in new places.  Often the birding elitists parasite off these sightings, go to the reported places to enjoy the birds, while smugly decrying the evils of the listers who provided the location.  Others espouse their enlightened perspective of "let the birds come to you" and are content to enjoy their backyard birds by manipulating them with hundreds of dollars worth of wild bird seed, yet they are first in line to reprimand the guy who pishes his way to a new life bird.  I say, judge not, lest ye be judged.  I claim the privilege of birding according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow all other birders the same privilege, let them bird how, where, or what they may as long as they don't endanger the bird.  Just enjoy birds and birding like I enjoyed reading "The Big Year"!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Idaho Birder: Don Hunter

Donnell & Nita Hunter
Labelle, Idaho

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

My first interest was as a child when my father would answer and mourning dove calls and get chickadees to come up close.  Then in Boy Scouts I became even more interested through earning my bird study merit badge.  We moved to Seattle during World War II, 1944, and I met the Seattle Audubon Society.  I had no binoculars.  On my first bird walk I met Violet E. Cannon.  She became my mentor and I learned bird calls are the best means of identifying birds.  In August 1946 we moved back to Idaho Falls.  I had no Peterson field guide—they weren’t in print yet, I don’t believe.  My book was a huge Birds of America by T. Gilbert Pearson.  Miss Cannon tutored many young people in birds.  We took ferry trips to Vashon Island and Indianola.  She showed me subtle differences in some subspecies of White-crowned and Song Sparrows.  We were great pals.  I was mostly a lister, but thought someday I would like to get a degree in ornithology.  I don’t know what you mean by a “spark bird,” but my first Audubon (now yellow-rumped) Warbler, a male in full breeding plumage that turned up in a favorite spot where I often birded alone, was one of my personal big thrills.

How long have you been birding in Idaho?

When I got back to Idaho, I started going on May Days and September Days to Camas National Wildlife Refuge.  I was really amazed when I listed 93 birds in one day then—still no binoculars of my own, but sometimes a borrowed pair.

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

I don’t go as often now.  Camas NWF is a favorite place, still.  As an undergraduate at Ricks College I often walked to the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River—I now was married, had binoculars, but no car.  That area became Beaver Dick Park.

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

Most of my birding has been in Idaho, though after I retired we traveled to Mexico for three years, Central America (living in Guatemala) for two years, and Chile for three years, all on Church assignments.  We have toured China and Africa and Peru and Argentina.  My favorite spot in the world would be the Canopy Towers in Panama.  I added 75 species to my life list in just two days when we went there.

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

I guess all of the above.

What kind of birding equipment do you use? 

Binoculars.  Haven’t bought a spotting scope yet.  In recent years, since my upper register hearing has diminished, I use a “Song Finder” that digitizes high pitches and drops them down an octave.  But it’s frustrating having to learn sounds all over in a different range.

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

I make daily lists.  Partly to keep track of arrival and departure dates.  Starting in 1967 after living two years in Hawaii, my sons (the oldest was 12 then) and I started an annual “May Day.”  When we lived in Latin America they kept the tradition going.  This year will be our consecutive 44th Hunter’s May Day.

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

Whooping Crane.  I had always wanted to see one, and one spring I was driving to Preston and there one was alongside the road doing a little mating dance among some Sandhills.  It had a colored tag on it.  It was one of those raised by foster Sandhill Crane parents.  

For three years I worked with some graduate students from the University of Idaho on Sage Grouse studies on the Red Road west of St.  Anthony.  We kept track of those booming grounds, tagged birds, etc.  One evening driving to Victor, Idaho I saw some white flashes in a perhaps five acre patch of sage on the east side of the highway a half mile south of the Spud Outdoor Theatre.  This was probably the last vestige of Sage grouse activity in Teton County.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I like The Sibley Guide to Birds for its drawings of plumage variations.

Which books from your personal birding library would you recommend?  

I have several bird guides of the Princeton series for foreign species and some of the Oxford guides that have served me well.

Do you have any formal bird-related education background? 

BA in Biology from Ricks College, but no specific ornithology class.

In what was your career?

College English teacher by profession.

How did you make the transition from Biology to English?

I had a mentor and French teacher at Ricks, the year after I graduated.  I was teaching biology at Madison High School--and Algebra and Chemistry and applied science.  An opening came to be assistant librarian at Ricks.  I had worked my way through Ricks as a student librarian and was offered the job and went to Library School one summer, but my interest was more in teaching, so I took more English classes--some through continuing education--from my friend and after four years applied to graduate school at Utah State University.  We had four children by then.  I got my degree in English and came back to Ricks on the English Faculty where I stayed the rest of my career except for two years teaching in Hawaii and one as a visiting professor in creative writing at  BYU.

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?  

Not after meeting many who are much better than I.

What future birding plans do you have?  

A trip to Australia and New Zealand as a tourist, but not specifically aimed at birds.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations? 

Not anymore.  Too many organizations feel they have to be a political presence and I’d just as soon let those preferences be personal.

What is your nemesis bird?  

Screech Owl

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

I have eight children, including 6 sons.  One son is a better birder than I.

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

Probably a Dodo.  Then I would no longer be endangered.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?  

As an English teacher I know what an oxymoron is, so I can’t humbly brag.

Total life list?   1152

Most exotic place you’ve gone birding?   Canopy Towers Panama