Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Birder Profile: Eric Zabinsky

Eric Zabinsky
North Central Texas (Mineral Wells)
How and when did you get into birding? 

This past June, I upgraded my camera and lens. The wife got tired of having a lens in her face, so I started walking the neighborhoods of my small Texas town shooting everything that moved. One day I was capturing an interesting looking yellow breasted bird with a "wound" on the top of its head. It disappeared! I looked up and saw a large grey raptor soaring off with what looked like my subject. It had a white head and black tail. I was mesmerized. The yellow bird was identified as a Western Kingbird. That red was no wound. The grayish looking raptor turned out to be a Mississippi Kite. Don't they eat insects? Why was this guy in my neighborhood? My eyes were opened and my passion for birds was born. Research led me to two sites that have been invaluable during these early days. Extraordinary! I could write volumes detailing the stories of how they have guided me through my initial trials; always steering me back on course. Jim Peterson from and has been one such gentleman. You can read about my spark bird and initial birding experience here on my blog.

Where do you regularly go birding? Where is your favorite place to bird?

Daily walks lead to daily birding activities. Mineral Wells State Park, Holland Lake Park and Possum Kingdom Lake are weekly to monthly adventures. Canoeing up Rock Creek to "Lost Lake" can lead to some nice finds for our area. There is enough in Region 2 Osage Plains and my tri-county to keep me busy. I've traveled all over the U.S. and spent several years in the orient and the South Pacific; if only I had known the joys of birding during those years. The wonders I missed.

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

I am a "watcher / lister" hybrid. I thoroughly enjoy watching activity and studying habitat. My friends are counters / tickers. I am 45 and getting started, many of my friends pick at my count and limited listings but I am diligent.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

Current equipment includes: a Canon T3i with a 70-300 IS USM lens, Fujifilm XS-1, binoculars, and lost of patience.

How do you keep track of your bird observations?

Constantly firing my camera, the Flash by Z Bird Blog, and a Osage Plain (Region 2) Texas Park and Wildlife list that is available for my area. Also, there is a Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway bird list that I use extensively. I check off on both list. My goal: complete the Region 2 list within the next couple of years.

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

The one described above; my initial "sighting" will always be my favorite. That Kite and mate ended up nesting a couple of blocks from my house. I watched the pair for weeks. Another favorite was a recent event. I took two 4" diameter limbs (18" long) and drilled several holes in each with a paddle bit. Then I mixed some seed, nuts and lard and created homemade Suet feeders. I placed large eyebolts in each and hung them with D-rings. As I was hanging a "Suet Feeder" up at one locale, a (initial sighting / story on blog) red-breasted Nuthatch landed on the limb upside down while I was still holding the limb by the eyebolt. I did not want to breath… stretching the moment for as long as I could and dreading the moment of departure. I felt the vibration of the "strike" of the bill on the wood. The bird looked me in the eye, "oh crap!" I could visualize the birds thought and off he/she went.

Which birding publications and websites do you read and recommend?

Birds and Blooms and AllAboutBirds (Cornell Labs), and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library are all excellent. So many choices… I am looking for a solid North Texas bird blogger that will pass on bird and event information. Chasing locally sounds fun.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

Birds of Texas Field Guide – Stan Tekiela was my first. I love "Stan's Notes" on each bird. Great photography shots for identification. Now I have the full array of field guides for Texas and North America. My 1960's Texas blue book is kind of cool.

Do you use any birding apps for smartphones or tablet-like devices?

Scott's Feed Bird Guide for Android. Not bad but missing tons of birds (even commons).

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

The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong -Donald Kroodsma. Wonderful writings.

What is your current nemesis bird? 

Black Phoebe…

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

Noisy people interrupting bird traffic when I am trying to observe.

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

Biking, swimming, boating, reading, programming.

Any funny or embarrassing birding experiences you could tell us? 

Walked off into a deep ravine with a camera attached to my face. Self-explanatory.

Your mission in life as a birder?

Create happy, healthy habitats for the local singers.

Any birding-related projects in the works?

I create handmade bird feeders, houses and boxes. I converted my geek blog over to a bird blog: Flash by Z – Bird Blog . Enjoying every second of it.

Eric Zabinsky on Google+