Tell us a bit about yourself: I hail from Milwaukee, WI, where I live with my birding partner and wife Sarah and our three teenaged children. I am the owner of a small business, three indoor climbing facilities in Milwaukee area called Adventure Rock.
How would you describe your involvement with birds?
My parents raised me to be an outdoors person. My father was always very knowledgeable about the natural world and shared it. I was always impressed by how he could identify birds, especially waterfowl while flying, which still is challenging for me. Our family always had a very well-worn bird book accessible in our family camper. As a child, I loved thumbing through the book and looking at the illustrations of birds. My favorite illustration was of a road runner with a lizard in its beak.
After college I worked for an organization that provided environmental education to students aged 8-14 years. Being able to share the outdoors with a new group of children each week helped foster my desire to be able to observe and identify the natural world; birds were a big part of that. One weekend during this time I asked a female coworker to go birding during the spring migration. That trip led to a slew of life birds, and we have now been birding together for over 25 years. We saw a new life bird this weekend: a Horned Grebe.
What led you to join the WSO?
Like everyone else, CoVID-19 had a huge impact on our lives. Last March my business was shut down, my wife started working from home, and my children had school from home. It was tough. We were stressed out about the future, finances, and our mental health. To combat that, like many others, we turned to the outdoors. Daily birding adventures became one of the positive and memorable parts of the shutdown in Wisconsin. During this time, we saw tons of birds, met lots of other birders, and really got more excited about birding. The desire to be further involved and gain knowledge about ornithology led me to the WSO. I also think being able to tell people that I am part an ornithological society gives me little street cred.
Do you have a favorite Wisconsin bird? If so, why that bird?
I have lots of favorite birds, and it seems to change all the time. Last year I saw my first Wilson’s Warbler. I thought that little guy was pretty cool with his silly little toupee-looking patch on the top of head. Ultimately, however, I think that my favorite bird is the Black-capped Chickadee. It is an awesome bird: a year around resident, friendly to humans, with a great call and excellent plumage. Just an all-around great bird.
Have you had a recent memorable experience with birds or while birding?
Funny enough, many of my great birding experiences have to do with other humans. One of the more memorable outings I had was last year at local hotspot, Lake Park, in Milwaukee. This is a great birding location because of a large bridge that spans a wooded ravine. In the spring, it is common for birders to gather on the bridge, because you get great views of birds from above. It attracts many people who are really knowledgeable about birds. While there, someone announced that a Black-billed Cuckoo had just flew in. Everyone excitedly moved to the edge of the bridge to get a glimpse. I’d never having seen a cuckoo outside of a field guide. I approached the crowd and asked where it had gone. A person in the group said, “Down there, by the forsythia!” I leaned over to look and obviously wasn’t looking in the right place, because another person repeated, “Over there, by the forsythia.” Still not having any clue where they were looking, I announced, “I have no clue what a forsythia is!” Very kindly, the group then took additional time to point out where they were looking, and I got to see my first Black-billed Cuckoo before it flew off. I still have no clue what a forsythia is, but I should probably figure it out. Apparently, it could be a vital plant to know while birding. Who would have guessed?