Thursday, May 19, 2011

Utah Birder Profile: Eric Huish

Eric Huish
Pleasant Grove, Utah
How did you get into birding? Did you or do you have a birding mentor and can you tell us about that person? Did you have a “spark bird”?

For me birding was a gradual build up then a ‘Spark’ field trip. When I was a teenager I lived in Jacksonville Florida and spent all my free time fishing. We lived on a small lake and my best friend lived on the St. Johns River. We would often canoe around the river and explore the backwater areas in the cypress swamps. I learned to identify some of the larger birds like herons, osprey, coots, anhinga, etc. I kept a bird feeder and knew some of the backyard birds like Mockingbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Morning Doves. My parents even bought me a bird book. I remember canoeing around a bend in our lake once to see a Wood Stork fly up right in front of me. When I moved to Utah I slowly gave up fishing because it just wasn’t as fun as it was in Florida. I took a Biology Class at UVSC and the professor, Renee Van Buren, offered an extra credit birding field trip. It was the first time I had gone out specifically looking for birds. I was surprised to find out how easy it was to see wildlife everywhere. After that I started looking for birds in my free time. Birding was like fishing; I got to spend time enjoying and learning about nature but without my hands getting all stinky!

Once I started birding the Utah County Birders group as a whole was a ‘mentor’ and especially Milton Moody.

How long have you been birding?

15 years. I officially started my life list on January 1st 1997. I was ‘birding’ for almost a year before that and just very casually looking at birds before that.

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

I watch the birds in my yard daily and 5 or 6 times a week will bird a destination, even if it is just for a few minutes on my way to work.

Where is your favorite place to bird in Utah? in the world?

My favorite place in the state is the Provo Airport Dike. I don’t usually travel very far to go birding and I can see a lot of birds around the dike loop. I have only birded once outside of the United States, at Point Pelee, Ontario, so I guess that would be my favorite.

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 enjoy birding the small canyons above Pleasant Grove. Battle Creek and Grove Creek Canyons are just a few blocks away from where I live and Dry Canyon is between my house and my work. They are beautiful canyons where I am able to take a relaxing walk and enjoy the outdoors.

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

I am a lister, I like to keep a list of the birds I see at each location ever time I go birding. I often make several lists a day when I bird more than one spot. I may chase if the bird interests me enough and it is less than 45 minutes away. I am not actively traveling specifically to add to my life list, so probably not a Twitcher.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I have 8x42 Wind River Pinnacles and a Kowa TSN-820M spotting scope.

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

eBird. (  My favorite thing about birding is the way the species change with the season and the habitat. Keeping track of species, numbers, locations and dates helps me better understand how birds fit into the natural environment.

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

There are so many favorite sightings. One night I spent a few hours sitting in my bed watching out the window, the young screech-owls had just fledged. Five owlets and two adult owls made for an exciting night of owl watching. The adults would snatch moths from the honeysuckle vine that grows up the wall under and on both sides of my bedroom window. Click here for the story and photos.

What is your favorite backyard bird? Any good backyard birding stories or amazing backyard bird sightings you can share?

Several years ago I built a screech-owl nest box and set it up in the quietest corner of the yard. The next spring I had Western Screech-Owls nesting in it. You can read about my owls here.

One winter I had both a wintering Bullock’s Oriole and a White-throated Sparrow using my feeders for a few months.

Which birding publications and websites do you read and recommend?

Birding (ABA Magazine), and eBird

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I like The Sibley Guide to Birds. It has the most drawings per species and I think the drawings more closely match the shape and structure of the birds.

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

The Sibley Guide to birds. I think it is the best field guide for North America.
Princeton Field Guides Birds of Europe. I have never been to Europe and I don’t plan on going but I think the artwork in this guide is beautiful and the text is informative.
Birds of the Great Basin. It’s a natural history of birds with an emphasis on behavior, adaptations and distribution of the birds living in the Great Basin.

What future birding plans do you have?

Most of my birding is done on a whim. I am attempting a Provo Airport Dike big year so my whims are leaning more toward the PAD this year.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations?

I am involved with Utah County Birders - I am the webmaster for the Utah County Birders Webpage - I sometimes lead field trips for the UCB and was the Newsletter Editor for many years. I served one term on the Utah Records Committee.

What is your nemesis bird?

Cassin’s Kingbird (Don’t laugh). It is the only common Utah bird I have still never seen. I haven’t been trying real hard.

Any birding related pet-peeves you’d like to vent about here?

Work and responsibilities, why can’t I bird all day, every day?

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

They are all better looking, healthier and more successful than me. They don’t bird.

Outside of birding, what are your other interests or hobbies?

I like all nature. I enjoy identifying butterflies, dragonflies, trees and shrubs. I also like to watch TV, but NOT reality TV.

Any funny birding experiences you could tell us?

Funny? Hmm… I had a Prairie Falcon use me as a blind once. I was watching it soaring VERY high on the mountainside. It then tucked in its wings and started a stoop straight at me. When a bird is falling at high speed, is not flapping its wings and is aiming straight for your head it just looks like a quickly growing bird. At the moment I could see the blacks of its eyes I chickened, dropped my bins a ducked my head a little. This was enough to startle the falcon out of its dive and swoop away. At that same instant a covey of quail bust out of the sagebrush behind me. The visual of the Falcon with the burst of noise from behind me almost gave me a heart attack. I think the falcon was using me to hide itself from the view of the quail and when I moved the falcon realized I wasn’t a tree stump and pulled out of the stoop.

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

Boy, I don’t know… maybe a swallow? They get to fly around all day just picking food out of the air. The view must be nice up there. Do swallows enjoy the view? In this hypothetical situation would my mind be in the bird? I’ll be a Violet-green Swallow… they always pick beautiful mountainous areas to nest.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

My yard list just hit 100 species a few days ago. It is only ½ acre in a suburban area with no large body of water nearby.

Total life list? 509

Most exotic place you’ve gone birding? Hawaii

Your mission in life as birder? I bird for enjoyment.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your background. I had to post this comment because I am in Pt Pelee right now...up to 105 species. Always a birding treat to leave Utah. Come back to Pt Pelee, the birds miss you.

    Bob Atwood Logan, Utah