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

Introducing our June 2004
Birder of the Month:

Mia Revels
of Tahlequah, 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?
My mom is a birder, so she got me started watching birds as a teenager.  Once she woke me up at what I considered to be a very unreasonable hour to see a Painted Bunting at the feeder.... I could barely get my eyes open!!!  But "officially," I started birding in college during my first Ornithology course.  So, about 20 years.
Dr. Peggy Rae Dorris, my faculty advisor, mentor, and friend, taught an ornithology course at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where I got my undergraduate and master's degrees.  It was a fantastic course and once I got started, I couldn't stop!!
Little River National Wildlife Refuge.... where else??  Of course, the Nickel Preserve runs a close second.
Sibley or National Geographic.
Swainson's Warblers because they're mysterious, beautiful, and challenging to observe!
Hooded Warblers -- I spent 7 years of my life studying them and never got tired of them :-)
and Black-and-white Warblers -- the first time I hear their song, I know that spring is here.

Yeah, I have a serious Warbler bias.  I can't help it; it's a compulsion!!  That's why I spend my spring/summers in Warblerville (aka LRNWR)!  All birds are great, though :-)
What I love most about birds/birding is the breeding season.  There's nothing so amazing and beautiful to me as a bird's nest and eggs.  When I see a female bird with nest material in her beak, my heart beats a little bit faster.  And when I find a nest.... :-)
Nothing about birds is bad, but occasionally the surroundings can become hostile.  I have gotten 3 sharp sticks in the eye (same eye, left one!) over the years while birding.  That wasn't so great.
Well, some things that I shouldn't write here.  But I am just as likely to say:  "Shoopty!"  "Crap-Doodle!"  or "Crock-a-doodle-doo!"
Come on, it's summer!  Who has time to read? :-)  But when I do get time, I usually read bits of several books.  Some that I have picked up lately:  Rare and Elusive Birds of North America, by  William Burt, a gift from Mike Adams.  This book is about the adventures of a photographer who spent sixteen years attempting to photography North America's 20 most elusive bird species.  Of course, one of them was the Swainson's Warbler!  It is in the chapter entitled, "Some nasty places."  This is my favorite quote from his description of searching for a Swainson's Warbler nest:
     "The wonder, to me, is not just that the birds would choose such hellish habitat, but that they would manage to negotiate it safely without catching or tearing a wing, or an eye,** or being trapped altogether and dying a slow, sure, crucifixion death."
**Note my answer above about "bad" birding experiences....
     Anyone who has been out there with me will surely appreciate that sentiment :-)  He did manage to find and photograph a Swainson's Warbler nest but it took him
two years!  The book is very entertaining and includes stories and photographs of other mysterious and difficult-to-see birds.

Notes on Southern Marshes, Swamps, and Pineywoods, by Brook Meanley.  This is a signed copy that Berlin Heck got for me when he visited Meanley last summer (truly, a cherished gift!).  Brook Meanley "wrote the book" (literally!) on Swainson's Warblers after studying them for over 30 years.  He was an amazing naturalist and studied and wrote about many different topics.  His books are full of great stories and the details of his many adventures.

I must confess that I have read every book Stephen King has ever written, and am a big fan of science fiction/fantasy.  I am about to begin book three of the Mage Winds trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, an Oklahoma author.
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 people who have the ability to truly see and appreciate the wonders of nature, both large and small, around us.  I admire people who are kind, fair, and honest to everyone they meet.  I admire people who stand up for what they believe in and go out and do something about it, even small things---they add up!  I admire people who do the best they can, no matter what they are doing.  And I admire people who laugh a lot.
Q. How long have you been birding?
I live in Fayetteville, AR; am a biology faculty member at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK; and study Swainson's Warblers (see photo inset above) on the Little River National Wildlife Refuge in McCurtain County, Oklahoma.  Where do I spend the most time?  I'm not sure!
David Weidenfield called me one day from the Sutton Avian Research  Center and asked me if I would like to study  Swainson's Warblers.  They had some money and no one to do the project.  I was born approximately 20 miles from the Little River NWR and I love warblers.  So I think it was fate.  Also, I am not allergic to poison ivy or mosquitoes, nor am I phobic about poisonous snakes, ticks, or the occasional blood-letting-by-briar.  In other words, I was made for Swainson's Warblers!

Since initiating the project in 2001, I located the first Swainson's Warbler nest documented in Oklahoma since 1917.  That was exciting!!  Since then, over 40 nests have been located and monitored on the project.  I have also documented Swainson's Warblers as a new host to Protocalliphora blowfly parasites.  And I have gathered lots of data about their natural history, habitat requirements, territoriality, and other things.  Since so little is known about Swainson's Warbler biology, it's easy to discover new things!

One of the most fun things about studying Swainson's Warblers has been the chance to share them.  When people come down to see them, sometimes for the first time ever, they get SO excited!!

Also, I am banding males every summer.  This gives me information about survivorship and site fidelity.  I love it when I get recaptures!  Those little guys fly all the way to Jamaica (or somewhere like that) and often return to the same exact territory the following year!  There is one male that I netted for the fourth time this year.  All those miles.... it amazes me.
Tell us a little bit about the study of Swainson's Warblers you're working on.  How did you get started with it? like, for instance, did you volunteer or were you drafted?  Have you learned anything about Swainson's Warblers that wasn't known before you started netting and banding them?  Do you have a favorite memory about the study so far?  And tell us anything else you'd like to share about your work at the Little River NWR.