Tell us a little about your background and how you first got involved in birding:
I was born in the town of Valentine in the sandhills of Nebraska. My dad ran a hydro-electric power plant east of Valentine on the Niobrara River in the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was host to elk, bison, and Texas Longhorns, as well as antelope, deer, and prairie dogs. Local birds included Western Meadowlarks and Upland Sandpipers. I enjoyed being outdoors, but wasn't focused on birds at the time.
Most of my adult life I have continued to enjoy the outdoors in southeast Wisconsin, but I didn't focus on birding until a few years ago. Our son Tim has always loved the outdoors and took it to the next level in college when he became interested in birding, and eventually he invited me to join him on some birding outings. After a few outings, I, too, became interested, even joining Tim on a trip to visit one of his birding friends, Eric Bruhnke, in Oregon. During the 10-day, 5,500-mile road trip, we had opportunities to go birding in several states, and by the end of the trip I considered myself a birder.
How did you come to join WSO?
My early birding experience took me on occasional trips to Horicon Marsh and the southern Kettle Moraine area with Tim. We also participated in several group outings, including some that were sponsored by WSO. Eventually, I joined the Horicon Marsh Bird Club and WSO. Not long after that, I attended my first WSO Convention in Madison. During the convention, I met some of the board members, and I learned that the Youth Education Committee position on the board was open. My background as a teacher and interest in birding led to me expressing interest in the position, and I was approved as Youth Education coordinator a the next WSO board meeting. That job has since been re-titled Education Committee co-chair.
Tell us a bit about your education.
I attended Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., where I earned a B.S. in elementary education with an emphasis in science.
What is your work?
I taught grades 3-6 for over 25 years at St. Mark's Lutheran School in Watertown and was a member of the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers. Currently, I work for Wisconsin Aviation at the Watertown Municipal Airport, where I do detailing on airplanes that are in for maintenance, as well as charter and flight school aircraft.
What other fascinations do you have?
Growing up in rural Nebraska, I was amazed by the number of stars visible in the night sky. I took an "Earth and Space Science" class in college and had my first opportunity to view the sky through a telescope. While back visiting my family in Valentine as an adult, the Nebraska Star Party was being held about 25 miles south of town. Taking advantage of the dark skies of the Sandhills, I had the opportunity to view several deep sky objects through some awesome telescopes. Later, I joined the Watertown Astronomy Society.
I've enjoyed photography going all the way back to high school, so while I enjoy using the binoculars to watch birds, I also like to take pictures, which I can later look at and study. When you see me birding, I will probably have both binoculars and a camera hanging around my neck.
I used to enjoy running, but as of late I've had to settle for walking, which gives me more time to spend with my wife, Sue.
What aspects of birding and WSO interest you the most?
I enjoy being outdoors, surrounded by wildlife in their natural environment. Birding was a natural progression for me, learning how to identify birds by sight and sound. Solo birding is fun, because it forces me to test my identification skilss, but WSO provides the great benefit of going with friends and doing group activities.
One of my favorite roles in WSO is organizing and distributing our Bird Monitoring Kits to nature organizations, clubs, schools, nature centers, and other groups. Each kit includes 15 sets of binoculars, a spotting scope with a tripod, bird ID books, and other materials. To date, over 50 kids have been dispersed throughout Wisconsin to educate and motivate children and adults.
I also coordinate WSO Youth Grants for kids from pre-k through 12th grade to study birds. One award is made in spring and another in fall, each up to $250. It's satisfying to receive feedback and information about how each project was carried out.