Q. How long have you been birding?
Q. What first got you interested in birding?
Q.  What's your favorite birding spot in Oklahoma?
Introducing our September 2008
Birder of the Month:

of Lawton, 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 really enjoy telling people how I become interested in birds and birding.  First, the credit would have to go to my Grandmother.  She lived in western Pennsylvania pretty far out in the woods.  She always had feeders out and I would sit next to her while she rocked away in her chair.  We would talk for hours about wildlife and birds, and everytime something new came to a feeder she would tell me what it was, what it ate, and so on.  I really cherish those memories.  Perhaps the real clincher for me was during middle school when I placed first in the science fair.  My project was on water pollution and the local Audubon Society presented awards for projects that dealt with the environment.  That year I won the award and they presented me a National Audubon Society Field Guide to Eastern Birds (I still have it tucked away) and a year's membership. That's all it took!
I think my most favorite place to bird is probably Harper and Beaver Counties.  Some of my best finds and birding experiences have taken place there.  From American Avocets to Lesser Prairie-Chickens, the region always provides a few surprises.  For the most part there is still a lot of native habitat remaining in the region, even though everything is fenced in.  However, that issue is nothing a friendly conversation with a landowner won't cure.
Sibley's, hands down.
Well, I love 'em all.  But if I had to choose, I think my first would be the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.  I had a great oppurtunity to work with them in western Oklahoma. There's nothing like a beautiful sunrise, the smell of fresh Sandsage, and the sounds of Prairie-Chickens on their booming grounds.
My second would have to be the
Black Rail.  My first experience with them was also in NW Oklahoma.  I spent a few hours chasing peculiar sounds and Kee-kee-drr's in the dead of night, completely aware that the next morning when I reported them most people would think I was completely full of it!
My third is probably the
American Bittern.  I'm not sure if it's the way they stalk through the dense marsh or their unmistakable call, but I always get a kick out of watching them.
It would definitely be May 28 2007.  I was running a Marshbird survey at Hackberry Flats.  At my second survey point a single Black Rail made itself known.  I moved on and located a pair of Virginia Rails at the next location, which later in the afternoon produced a nest and three eggs.  After showing some friends the rails later in the morning we all continued birding.  We ended up locating a Willow Flycatcher, and then of all things a Bay-breasted Warbler.  Talk about a great day for Southwestern Oklahoma!
Well, I'm not sure if I've had a "worst".  But getting stranded over night in Boise City certainly tops my most uncomfortable.  A blizzard hit the region during the winter in 2007.  I spent the night sleeping in the back of my truck because I was stuck in a snow bank.  I slept until it reached -18*F, and then I was just too cold to rest so I hopped back in the cab and waited for someone to come and pull me out.  I was glad to leave Cimarron County behind me that day.
Well I just finished John James Audubon the Making of an American.  This is the third book about the man that I have read, so not many of the stories were new, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the man and his efforts.
Q.  Who are your heroes or role models?  Whom do you admire? and if you care to comment, why are they your heroes?
I admire a great many people, but I'm gonna take this chance to let some of my friends from Oklahoma know that they mean a great deal to me.  Don Wolfe, Dan Reinking, and Michael Patten of the Sutton Research Center really changed my life.  Don was my first "boss" when it comes to research.  He gave me a chance to prove myself in NW Oklahoma by hiring me on to the Lesser Prairie-Chicken project, something I was only mildly qualified for, and I thank him for that.  Dan trusted me enough to allow me to chase birds all over the state for two seasons, gathering data for his Winter Bird Atlas Project.  Michael continually provides me with advice on my projects, never gets tired of my phone calls (at least, he doesn't let me know about it!), and is always open to my wild and sometimes far-out ideas.  These guys devote their lives to birds and conservation, they opened that door for me, and I thank them for it.
I think my first real birding took place in Fairfield, PA.  I couldn't have been more than twelve years old.
Eric is the Important Bird Areas Coordinator
for the
Oklahoma Audubon Council.
Check out his blog at: