Cyndie Browning and Larry Mays
at the Hagerman NWR (TX) Jan 30, 1999
Q. How long have you been birding?
Q. What got you interested in birding?
Q.  What's your favorite birding spot in Oklahoma?
Introducing our March 2003
Birder of the Month:

Larry Mays
Newcastle, Oklahoma
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've been interested in birds since about the sixth grade.  No major epiphanies there, just a gradual development of their recognition.  It wasn't until college under the tutelage of William A. Carter that I actually became a "birder."  That would be in the late 60's of the last century, so I guess I've been birding about 35 years, more or less.
Exposure, I guess.  Dr. Carter introduced me to the birding community.  Then I met George Miksch Sutton, who should have come with a warning label:  "Enthusiasm may be contagious."
I can't say that I have a "favorite" spot.  Oklahoma has so many great birding places.  I love the Black Mesa country in the far northwestern portion of the panhandle, but I could easily say the same about the Wichita Mountains near Lawton, Hackberry Flats south of Frederick, Great Salt Plains near Cherokee, Choleta Bottoms above Spavinaw Lake, Red Slough and Little River Refuge in McCurtain County, and on and on.  Close to home, I like to bird Lakes Hefner and Overholser in Oklahoma City and around Lake Thunderbird near Norman.  If you want suggestions, I say get a copy of "The Roads of Oklahoma," pick a destination, and just GO!  Look for those green areas---that's all PUBLIC land!  Oh, and all those LAKES!  Knock yourself out!  Knock a hole in your oilpan (once, so far).
Sibley's.  National Geographic.  Those two are nearly always in the car.  But so many new ones and ever more specialized ones are springing up.  The Peterson Field Guide series now has "Warblers of North America" and "Hummingbirds of North America," which are great.  Probably have to get heavier springs on the car before long to carry all the books.
Screech-Owl, Chuck-will's-widow, Altamira Oriole.  That's just fast, free association.  Whatever bird comes to mind is favorite of the moment.  Why?  Screech-Owls because they're cool.  I like walking around the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (high Screech-Owl density) and seeing how many I can get to answer my whistle.  Chuck-will's-widow because they can get me outside on a moonlit night to see what they're doing.  Altamira Oriole because I had one in my CAR and held it in my HANDS!
Kenton, Oklahoma, December 1970.  Evening Grosbeak, Goshawk, Pygmy Nuthatch, Steller's Jay, Western Bluebird, and an autographed copy of Oklahoma Birds.
Well, that hole in the oilpan wasn't too good, especially considering where I was, but how can any birding experience be BAD?  Hey, it's an adventure.**
Say? to myself, ya mean?  After the chase??  Probably anything with four letters, or combinations thereof.
Right now, I'm reading "You Are Being Lied To," edited by Russ Kick.  It's about media distortion and perceptual manipulation.  I just finished "Zen Mind---Beginner's Mind," by Shunryu Suzuki.  It's a collection of talks by a Zen master which not only can give you a good idea of what Zen means, but can also open new vistas of understanding how we look at life.
Q. Where do you live?
I live in Newcastle, OK, in the upper watershed of Pond Creek
which flows into the Canadian River.
    **A Dim View editor Cyndie Browning hereI want to say a few words to Larry's description of birding as "an adventure."

     In May 1999, I met Larry at Natural Falls State Park near W. Siloam Springs, OK for a few days camping and birding together.  The first night out, the park ranger woke Larry (who was sleeping in his van) and told him, "you and your friend probably want to take down her tent; there's a tornado headed this way!"  So we took the supports out of my tent, piled everything heavy we could find on top of it, I climbed into Larry's van with purse, pillow, and a few belongings, and we drove over to the men's shower building, the nearest concrete block structure around, which had been designated as a safe shelter for us and the other campers at the park.  It began raining like nobody's business and rained for hours!  Larry and I opted for sitting in his van and talking until the wind would
REALLLLY start blowing (indicating imminent tornado, we thought), and we talked until they sounded the "All clear!" sometime after 3a.m.  Of course, by that time, my tent was absolutely soaked.  Larry offered to take me to a motel in town for the night but I suggested that I was comfortable enough in the front seat of his van, and that I'd rather just snooze right there in the van until daylight.  I insisted that he crawl back into his sleeping bag in the back (gentleman that he is, he resisted at first and then the need for sleep overtook him), and I quickly feel asleep in the passenger seat in front---but before I did, I said, "Larry, I always knew birding with you would be 'an _adventure_'!!!"

     When I opened my eyes sometime after dawn, it was to see Larry trying to set up my tent again so it would dry out, bless his heart.  Well, we headed out to bird around the park and the areas around W. Siloam Springs.  I saw my first Louisiana Waterthrushes on that trip and god knows how many birds that morning, many of them (including the waterthrushes) lifebirds.  It was sunny and everyone was out,
especially the birds.  At lunchtime, we headed to Taco Bell in town.  While ordering my food, I remarked something like, "boy, that was some storm last night!"  The little gal behind the register answered, "yeah, but at least we didn't get hit as hard as they did in Oklahoma City!!!!"  Larry turned white as a sheet! and left immediately to find a phone and call his wife, Patricia, to make sure she and the boys were okay.  She was fine---upset and a little frightened, of course, but otherwise alright.  However, one side of their house was missing all its windows and part of the roof was gone, too.  BUT they faired better than their next-door neighbors whose house had been reduced to rubble.  When Larry got back to the Taco Bell, he said, "I think I need to go home...," and apologized for cutting short our birding trip.  But of course he needed to go home!! so he dropped me off back at my now-not-so-damp tent and he headed home.  I packed up my stuff, pointed the nose of my car north, and drove to Minnesota to bird for the next 3 months.  It was a fabulous summer of birding for me, but nothin' will ever out-do birdin' with Larry Mays during a tornado, for adventure!!!!!!!!!!!