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My Father, the Birder

June 16, 2008

Nearly every one of us who gets involved in the hobby have some sort of mentor, some sort of teacher, or even, if you’re really young, even someone just to drive the car to the birding locales. For so many of us that get involved in birding at a young age, that person is a parent. For me, it was my dad. So here, the day after Father’s Day, is my small tribute to my dad, the birder.

I was always the kid who was into nature as a youth. Sports didn’t interest me, girls didn’t interest me, but mucking about outside, turning over rocks and logs looking for snakes and lizards? That’s what interested me. And my dad, a middle school science teacher, was an enthusiastic guide. We had snakes and frogs in terrariums on the front porch. We appropriated my mom’s nail polish to mark the shells of box turtles so we could find them again. I had one seriously kick ass insect collection. It was a rather idyllic childhood, all of this stuff I cherish and couldn’t imagine anything better.

When I got interested in birds, it was more of the same. While my dad was not an avid birder until I got the bug, he became my partner in crime for those years when we traveled to Florida and Kansas and Texas and racked up the numbers on my burgeoning life list. The only time in those formative years we did not bird together was when I traveled to Arizona for bird camp, which was obviously fun, but I would have liked for my dad to get those Elegant Trogons and crazy hummingbirds too. Some day…

During those lost years when I was not a serious birder, my dad kept it up, though maybe not with the fervor he had before. Once I became reborn to the birds, though, again I found a regular companion, even if our birding experiences were shared over the phone 1500 miles apart. Those opportunities when we do get together are great, though, and culminated in a trip last year to Costa Rica with another of my great birding friends, Nolan Britt. Ten days of birding in the Neotropics was amazing, and even more so because of the company. The photo to the left is from our last day in Monteverde, where even the theft of our cameras couldn’t keep us down for long. The memories are still there, and pictures can be retaken on a return trip, right?

I’ve even gotten him bitten by the blog bug. I remember him being an avid nature journalist when I was young. He’s transfered that interest into the electronic realm at Conservation Conversations, where he writes about nature and thoughts on a career in environmental education. Go check it out.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I would not be the birder, or without a doubt the person, I am today if not for my dad. And as I’ve been extremely fortunate so far in my life to share it with amazing friends and family, that’s no small testament to what he’s done as a father and friend. So pardon me if I get a bit maudlin this morning, we’re all allowed to from time to time I suppose.

Happy (slightly belated) Father’s Day, dad.

  1. Greg permalink
    June 16, 2008 11:33 am

    I am humbled and very proud. I wouldn’t have traded all those times for anything!
    Looking forward to many more great times in the field. You can always convince me to go to SE Arizona!

  2. June 16, 2008 11:37 am

    Oh good, cause I’m thinking next summer…

  3. Greg permalink
    June 16, 2008 4:43 pm

    Let’s start planning!

  4. noflickster permalink
    June 16, 2008 8:22 pm

    I find posts like this one are more valuable than any “how to parent” self-help guide-thing you’ll find in all bookstores and most pediatricians’ waiting rooms. One of my life’s goals is to create the environment where my daughter might one day write something like this about her parents (I can’t take full credit alone).

    Hope you guys have an amazing SE AZ trip, and soon!
    – Mike

  5. Gallicissa permalink
    June 16, 2008 11:32 pm

    You must be very proud to have such a close guide beside you in your formative days. Like you, getting hooked on birds and nature at 13, helped me to stay away from other teenage obsessions that were about to sprout. Great post!

  6. tenderstorm permalink
    June 16, 2008 11:42 pm

    That is so sweet!

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