Q. Where do you live?
Q. What first got you interested in birding?
Q.  What's your favorite birding spot in Oklahoma?

Introducing our November 2008
Birder of the Month:

of Durant, OK
Q.  What field guide do you prefer to use?
Q.  What are your 3 favorite birds? and is/are there any particular reason(s) they're your favorites??
Q.  Tell us about your BEST birding experience.... so far.
Q.  What was your WORST??
Q.  What are you most likely to say when a bird flies before you can ID it??
Q.  What was the last book you read?
I guess I'm a rarity among ornithologists since I didn't start "birding" until 1993 when I was 22 years old.  Most of the folks in my profession started birding in the womb it seems!  Even though I've been birding 15 years, I feel like I had a late start on my peer group and am still playing catch up.
Sleight of hand and twist of fate.  I went to Eastern Illinois University to start a masters in mammalogy, but the professor quit the university in a huff (not because of me!) and I had to shift gears fast.  I took an ornithology class and loved it.  I told the professor, Eric Bollinger, that I wanted to work on birds.  He said no problem, but I had to be the ornithology class teaching assistant the following spring and I needed to know all the birds of Illinois by sight and sound in less than 8 months!  So I spent a part of every single day of the next 8 months in the field or studying field guides/tapes.  I was hooked and have been birding ever since.  I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to bird as part of my job!
That's a tough one.  I'll cheat and mention several.  Most of my favorites are probably not the big spots that most people pick.  I love birding at Pontotoc Ridge and Boehler Seeps Preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy.  Good birds and rarely are other people present.  You aren't being run over by cars and day trippers that mob most parks and refuges.  Honorable mentions:  Tishomingo NWR -- my home away from home, Red Slough WMA -- I love birding with David Arbour, Berlin Heck and company, and Hackberry Flat WMA with the Truexes and Kurt Meisenzahl.
I prefer the National Geographic field guide, with the Sibley guide a close second.  Honorable mention:  I learned birds using the Golden Guide, so I have special place in my heart for it.  I really like how the Golden Guide had pages dedicated just to warbler heads and streaked versus un-streaked breast sparrows, etc.
That’s brutal, getting it down to just three.  I'm always partial to my study species, so I'd pick the Prothonotary Warbler –- easy to identify by sight and sound, good  personality, the only cavity nesting warbler in the eastern US, and always a crowd pleaser, especially with young or new birders.  Second, I'd pick the Red-cockaded Woodpecker which I studied for five years for my Ph.D.  Although hard to see in Oklahoma, this species is fascinating to watch in the field.  Each RCW in a group has a distinct personality and each group has a personality too.  I love just following them around and seeing how they interact.  Once you start watching them, you'll be  hooked.  Third, I'd pick the Montezuma Quail.  They are hard to find, and I love a challenge, but such a treat when you do find it.  They are an amazing bird.  I also got a big kick out of helping Bill Carter find his lifer Montezuma Quail in Mexico back in May this year.  Honorable mention:   my new favorite bird by song is the Brown-backed Solitaire.  I got to see and hear one near Madera, Mexico this year and if you haven't heard this bird, download it off the web and you'll be addicted to its song.  In the  field, it is the most ethereal funky thing I've heard so far in my young birding career.
In the US, my favorite experience was when I went to the Texas coast for the first time.  In 1995, I worked as a MAPS bird banding intern and we did our training at the Clive Runnels Marsh Preserve near Palacios Texas on the coast.  It was April and there were amazing birds/lifers everywhere I looked.  Roseate Spoonbills, Purple Gallinules, Black Skimmers, Seaside Sparrows, White-tailed Kites.  It was a birding high that I hope all new birders experience.  Outside the US, I went to a conference in Costa Rica in 1997.  It was my first time to bird in the tropics and it was everything I hoped for and more.  I drooled over all the hummingbirds, tanagers, manakins, macaws, flycatchers, raptors etc.  I had to be dragged to the airport to go back to Mississippi.  The next day I was back in the Mississippi pine woods going, "There are no birds here; I want to go back to the tropics!"
\There's no such thing.  I know it's a cliché, but I adhere to the motto that a bad day birding beats a good day doing anything else, well almost….
Depends on the situation.  If I'm in front of my students, I might mumble something about "birding by impression" and the importance of being certain rather than guessing.  If I'm birding by myself or with close friends, I might mumble something that is most likely unprintable.
I was at a Half Price Books store in Dallas and picked up a copy of Swallow Summer by Charles Brown from the University of Tulsa.  It's a neat book that covers his research on Cliff Swallows.  It's a good read and you'll learn a lot about swallows.  The reader will also pick up on the passion Charles has for birds and it is a must read for young birders or naturalists, in my opinion.  If you are into the whole natural history scene, I strongly recommend PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon.  The writer spent a whole year in one county in Kansas.  He basically covers the entire geological, ecological, and cultural history of this one county.  It's probably my favorite book.
Q.  Who are your heroes or role models?  Whom do you admire? and if you care to comment, why are they your heroes?
First, I'd say my high school biology teacher in Lawrence, Kansas.  His name is Ken Highfill and he is responsible for me becoming a field biologist.  I had applied to college as a history and political science major, but I took his zoology class my senior year in high school.  I was blown away by how good a teacher he was and how he involved students in field biology projects.  He demanded a high level of performance, but did it in an inspirational way, not a bullying way.  I had no idea that you could study critters for a living and decided then and there that's what I wanted to do for a career.

Second, I really admire Bill Carter, who will be mortified I said that if he reads this.  He is basically the birding mentor I never had as an undergraduate or graduate student.  I effectively taught myself birding since the professors I worked for only focused on research and statistics.  Bill Carter has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds and is still sharp as a tack when it comes to natural history of Oklahoma.  I consider myself lucky to be able to soak up knowledge from him.  He also has a deep passion for birds and conservation that he instills in those around him.  We need a lot more people like Bill Carter out there.

Third, Thomas Paine.  Critical thinker, outspoken, driven, fearless in taking on the Establishment, a bit crazy, and the reason why we have most of the freedoms we have today.  I think I have some of those same attributes and beliefs and see myself in some of his writings.  I think if more of our leaders had the courage and brains of a Thomas Paine, our world would be a heckuva lot better off than it is now.
Q. How long have you been birding?
I have lived in Durant , Oklahoma since 2001, but I still can't bring myself to pronounce it "Doooo-rant" like the locals.  I grew up in Kansas, but have also lived in Missouri, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Doug holding a Downy Woodpecker