Confessions of an armchair bird watcher

Curiosity may have killed the cat; but it’s the unscratchable itch that has driven me all my life. It’s an obnoxious trait that impels me to become obsessed with a topic, learn everything I can about it, and then bestow my new-found knowledge on my friends – and anyone else who will listen. Once they weary of pretending interest, my only option is to write about it.

Actually, it’s a quirk that served me well during a professional career of steeping myself in such esoteric subjects as clinical chemistry analyzers, membrane microfiltration and laboratory water purification, and distilling this in marketing and advertising materials for the companies that employed me.

About 40 years ago, the company I worked for moved my family to El Paso, Texas. We soon discovered that many of our Sierra Club friends were also avid bird watchers. We learned that El Paso is a winter haven for many migrating birds, as well as the northernmost range for various Mexican species.

My wife Sandy and I got hooked! We would spend rapt mornings at the local sewage treatment pond, which water-deprived desert birds found irresistible. We made weekend forays to birding hotspots in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, from Big Bend and the Chihuahuan Desert to the Chiricahua Mountains and Sonoran Desert.

Our travels as avid bird watchers and six years as virtually full-time RV nomads, have since led us to birding hotspots all over North America, and into Mexico and Belize. Thanks to local guide books and generous help from local experts, we’ve amassed a “Life List” of more than 600 North American birds – considered a respectable total even among elite birders.

But eventually I reverted back to my true nature. While other birders devote their time to watching birds in the field, I spend more of my time reading about birds and writing about them. This oddball behavior makes me more of a compulsive story teller than an authentic expert.

Those who read my monthly columns on bird watching, or think of me as a resource in my role as education chairman for Kitsap Audubon, send all sorts of fascinating questions. I don’t always know the answers; but I enjoy digging for them and talking with local experts to come up with answers that are helpful and accurate. Often, I learn enough to produce another monthly column about birds and bird watching.

I’ve had fun weaving my travel stories, observations and readings into both articles and PowerPoint presentations about birds. So far, readers and audiences have been very kind in indulging my boundless curiosity and fascination with birds.