Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birding Before Birding

Posted by Rob Ripma

With this being my first post on, I would like to thank Robert for bringing this awesome group of birders together to collaborate on this blog! I think we are all going to have a great time. I thought I would start by sharing the story of how I got into birding and why it’s now just about all I think about

I started seriously birding ten years ago when I was 16, but I had been unwillingly birding for years before that. For as long as I can remember, my mom had feeders up at our house. She would always point out the usual backyard birds, so I knew most of those from an early age. Sometime in 1993, my mom went out birding for the first time. I didn’t really think much of it back then, but it has come to have an enormous effect on my life. Shortly after, my younger brother, Eric, decided that he wanted to go birding with her. He took an immediate liking to it and began studying birds pretty much nonstop.

That was the point at which the amount of time I would spend birding would increase whether I liked it or not. I didn’t have to go out birding with them around home but on family vacations, I didn’t have much of a choice. One of the first vacations that my family birded on was to Arizona. I never expected to do so much birding on a single family vacation. We started in the Tucson area and took a day trip to Sierra Vista. While the hummingbirds, coati, and scenery were pretty cool at Ramsey Canyon, I was generally unimpressed with birding and couldn’t understand how looking at birds and studying them was even remotely interesting.
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Magnificant Hummingbird
Our next stop was the Grand Canyon. All Eric wanted to do was start birding at the crack of dawn. I thought he was nuts! I had absolutely no interest in doing that and am now sure that I missed some pretty good birds by not going out birding with him.

Growing up, I also missed out on tons of great birding opportunities in southwest Florida. My family took annual trips to the Fort Myers Beach area, and for the first few years I had no interest in birds and birding. Fortunately, the repeated trips to the area slowly started to turn me into a birder. I eventually become fascinated by the large wading birds, especially Roseate Spoonbills! Those family trips in Florida were definitely my first days as a real birder and the first time I ever had an interest in starting to keep a life list.
Roseate Spoonbill
Purple Gallinule
Over the next few years, I continued to bird every once in awhile, mainly on Christmas and Spring Bird Counts, but at that time I never birded on a regular basis. That all changed with a visit to the most amazing spring migration location anywhere, Magee Marsh! For quite a few years, my mom and brother had been telling me about Magee, but I was a teenage boy and had way too much on my busy schedule to actually make time for birding. After my freshman year in college, I headed up to northwest Ohio with my mom, brother, and some of their birding friends. Little did I know, my life would never be quite the same.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Kirtland's Warbler

It was at that point that I completely fell in love with birding. I had never before had such amazing views of warblers, vireos, and thrushes. I was quite simply amazed! The rest as they say is history. I have travelled all over the United States since that time and luckily for me, have made up for the all of the birds I missed in Arizona.

I work for Wild Birds Unlimited, speak to kids at schools and camps about birds and birding, serve as Vice President of the Indiana Audubon Society, and run a birding blog and website called Quite simply, birding is one of the most important things in my life.

I look forward to sharing all of my birding adventures here on!



  1. Great post! Glad to see you are a contributor - I know you have a lot to add to this blog as you are an outstanding birder and have made this hobby fun for many people! I love the picture of the Black-chinned Hummingbird! This has to be one of my favorites!

  2. Beautiful photographs Rob. The converts are the most dedicated and ready to evangelize (although, I guess a lot of birders are converts to it). Thanks for sharing and bringing your enthusiasm to bear!

  3. ...loved the post, Rob!! I enjoyed reading about the early years--and your photos are, of course, spectacular! (P.S. I met Corky for breakfast recently, and we talked about making it over to Muscatatuck--one of these days!)

  4. Great to hear your story Rob. Funny all the different ways we arrive at the wonderful world of birding.

  5. Great post Robert,

    And the Hummer pics... Just great

  6. Nice post. Isn't it interesting how you wound up loving a hobby you basically couldn't stand at first? Viewing all the bird life is one of the few things I actually like about living in Florida - I see roseatte spoonbills and sandhill cranes every single day, and two weeks ago I saw a bald eagle perched on a street light along the expressway!

  7. Wonderful post. I love hearing how one gets pulled into birding


  8. Nice post. if Magee and SW Florida won't make someone a convert I don't know what will. Now you can make all those kids you teach converts too!

  9. Thanks for the great comments everyone! I am alreayd loving this blog and we aren't even a month in!

  10. Great post, interesting to read that you didn't become a full on birder straight away. Sounds like we need to bring more people to Magee during migration!