So tell us a little about your background and how you first got involved in birding?
I grew up in Evanston, Ill., the oldest of four kids. My sister and two brothers are still my best friends and we had a wonderful childhood split between the city and my grandmother's farm in Greencastle, Ind. It was my Grandmother Mary who first introduced me to birds. "Mama Mary" fed the birds and provided them water, but other than two Purple Martin boxes that were always occupied in the summer, she did not put up houses. She longed for bluebirds and orioles.
When she was near the end of her life, she came to live with me in Wisconsin and the first thing we did was put up Eastern Bluebird houses on my new farm. Within minutes a pair was checking out the digs and I thought my grandmother would cry. She was so excited to see a bluebird! That was a powerful experience and changed my life, as I was now a 'birder'. I wish that she had lived long enough to witness all the bluebirds, orioles, and tanagers that would grace my farm in the years that followed.
How did you come to join WSO?
It was talk of the WSO Convention at my bird club that first got my attention. I had been a member of the Ben Goss Bird Club for a year or two when I heard mention of a convetion. It sounded sort of mysterious and exciting, like that was where the 'real' birders gathered.
What I found when I first attended was the most down-to-earth, approachable, knowledgeable folks willing to share their experience and enthusiasm with a relative beginner trying to learn warbler songs. The number of species I saw that first year blew my mind! I was hooked and will make sure my calendar has future convention dates recorded as soon as they come out. (May 13-16 this year in Racine)
Tell us a bit about your education
My formal education is from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. I have a B.A. in psychology, which does nothing to help with bird identification, but it does help me understand how people think and communicate. I began as a music major, so you would think that would help me differentiate between a Chipping Sparrow and a Pine Warbler, but it doesn't always work that way!
What is your work and does it involve birds?
My children will tell you that public service is a core principal of mine. Currently, I am VP of the Wisconsin Public Radio Association. I am a member of a garden club and serve on my local library foundation board and as an election supervisor in my community.
At WSO I will be working on developing a program so that the organization has the means to fund projects important to our community. As the challenges facing birds increase, our ability to respond will become more critical. We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to do what we can to protect these creatures from loss of habitat, pollution, invasive species and predators, and to educate those unfamiliar with our Wisconsin birds.
Sometimes we can do this without a significant financial commitment, but not always. It is my hope that WSO has the resources to do the projects, research, education, and preservation necessary to protect our feathered friends, now and into the future.
How about your other interests?
My community work and my farm keep me pretty busy, but my other great passions are traveling and cooking. I love to entertain and use my farm regularly for events and gatherings. Next sumer will be a biggie when my son marries on the farm adn we host friends and family from all over the world. I will NEED a vacation after that! On my bucket list is a trip to Mongolia to see cranes and eagles. Not sure if or when that will happen, but it is a place I have dreamed of visiting for many years.
What aspects of birding and WSO interest you the most?
My sister once asked me what it is about birding that excites me. My response was that every time I go out birding, or see a new bird come to my feeder, it is like being rewarded with a new jewel on a treasure hunt.
I have a life list, but I don't know how many birds are on it. That isn't important to me. Just being in the moment and catching a glimpse of a bird that has just made it from Central America to my beautiful state or sharing the sighting of a rare visitor with friends old and new is special. Waking up in the spring to the bluebirds softly singing outside my bedroom window reminds me of my Mama Mary and is a gift for which I will always be grateful.