The most frequent questions I am asked when people learn that I'm a birder, are; "what's your favorite bird", and "where have you been birding?" Both are great questions. My real estate career takes up the majority of my time, but I have enjoyed several breathtaking birdwatching trips in various places around the world.
The first bird I recall noticing as a youth growing up in Arizona, was a Gila Woodpecker that was perched on the side of a Saguaro cactus. It's difficult to have only one favorite bird though, so I typically answer the favorite bird question with a question. Favorite bird of all time? Favorite common bird? Favorite rare bird? Favorite in terms of nest-building or singing abilities, or the most beautiful? Favorite bird on which continent? I could also answer the question based on each trip I've taken. I could answer Black Phoebe, a bird that delights me by making at least one appearance on almost every outing.
Several years ago on a trip to London, I hired a private guide on my birthday who took me to Windsor Castle and Virginia Water, and I added 30 new species to my Life List, among them, the Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Grey Wagtail. As of this post, I have been birding in more than 20 national parks. Some of my best birding happens in Central Park during fall migration.
I'm inspired by birding legends, Phoebe Snetsinger and Noah Stryker. Phoebe's story is amazing, and she holds the world record for having seen and documented birds of 8,398 different species, at the time, more than anyone else in history. Her memoir, Birding on Borrowed Time, documents her melanoma diagnosis at 50 and the birding exploits that followed. Initially driven to join the competition of seeing the most birds by the prognosis that her cancer was fatal, she died in a vehicle accident while birding in Madagascar almost 18 years after receiving the diagnosis that she had months to live.
After publishing, The Thing with Feathers in 2014, set out to do a Big Year. In 2015, he set a record for a worldwide Big year of birding, seeing 6,042 of the world's estimated 10,400 bird species in a continuous journey spanning all seven continents from January 1 to December 31, 2015. Imagine birding every day for 365 days while circumnavigating the globe.
I have seen approximately 350 species during my 30 years of birding, and I love the movie, The Big Year with Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Anjelica Huston, which is highly entertaining even if you have little interest in birds.
Photo: Gila woodpeckers courtesy of Mick Thompson/creative commons, flic.kr/p/2iW8kZQ