Passion: Birding

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Exactly one year ago, birder E. Vernon Laux spotted the Red Footed Falcon on Martha’s Vineyard. It wasn’t so much the red feet that electrified the birding world– it was the continent on which they landed. This was the first bird of its kind to visit North America. Ten thousand birders from across the world flocked to the tiny island to glimpse the red-footed-fellow. To an outsider it seemed like much ado about nothing, but to the twitchers of the world it was the natural thing to do.

What was once considered a pastime for oddballs and octogenarians has finally gone mainstream, thanks to the Internet and better birding gear. Such unlikely birders as Jim Jarmusch and Jonathan Franzen even find themselves stalking the Black Capped Gnatcatcher. In the 21st century birding has gone extreme; in pursuit of the elusive bird some birders have fallen prey to hungry fur seals and hyenas.

What bird has eluded you all these years? Are you a newcomer or old-timer? Who’s the birder in your neighborhood? Give us a call.

Some bird sites:


Bird Song

Birds in Literature

Bird Name Pronunciations


E. Vernon Laux

Vern has been birding since he was 12 and it’s become a way of life. He’s led birding tours everywhere from Israel to the Arctic .

In his 1999 book Bird News: Vagrants and Visitors on a Peculiar Island, Laux documents a year in the life of the Martha’s Vineyard bird population .

From Chelsea’s pre-interview notes
I started birding when I was 12. My science teacher put a chart on the wall of all the common winter birds of New England. I identified every one as a chicadee. I failed. One day he brought in a dead bird. If we could identify it we’d get an A on our next exam. No one in my family was interested in birds. There was a guy down the street, he was a birder, he gave me a Peterson Bird Guide. I went back to class with 400 names. Not one of them was right! There are only 600 species in North America…anyhow, that was the beginning of my birding life. It was 1967 when I became a birder I didn’t tell anyone. That was what oddballs and old ladies did.

My ambition was to see all the birds in North America by the time I went to college. I passed up a football scholarship. Instead I went to Cape Cod to working for the Audubon Society. Then I got a British girlfriend, I ended up in Alaska, working on a research boat –eventually I ended up at the university of Arizona to study all the birds there—I saw them all.

Sharon “birdchick” Stiteler

Sharon has been blogging on since 2004. She’s been birder a lot longer, since she was 7, when she got her first Peterson Bird Guide.
From Chelsea’s pre-interview notes
• How much do I love birding? I’ll wake up at 3:00 AM to watch birds, I go to islands where birds barf on me, I ‘ll walk around all day in 103 degree heat and sub zero weather to see birds . Because I don’t have the budget my birding has been restricted to North America but I would love to be able to bird around the world.

• What I love about birds is how they behave. One of my favorite birds is the Northern Goshawk–they act without thinking. I love the killdeer. I read about it; they pretend to be injured in order to protect their offspring. The first time I saw one it was like seeing a celebrity. I wanted its autograph. I wanted to say “you’re just like they said you’d be. Everything I read said that this is how you’d behave, and here you are behaving this way!??? It’s just such an amazing thing to see. I get such a rush every time I see a new bird.

Marie Winn

Marie Winn is an author and birder. She wrote Red Tails in Love, which has been re-released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first successful Red Tale nest in NYC. If you remember the story revolves around the superstar hawk Pale Male. Winn will give us some insights into urban birding.
From Chelsea’s pre-interview notes
The hardcore hawk watchers are still active because we had another nest here in Central Park, on the south side. Some of the hawk watchers did become birders but there is a huge difference between bird watchers and hawk watchers. Hawk watchers are very obsessive–unlike birdwatchers they sentimentalize things–they anthropomorphize birds–birwatchers are more clinical. the more I think about it, however, there is a huge spectrum of birdwatchers. Central Park is a great place to bird. After the Red Tail craze there we some people who started birding.

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