I have been a nature and bird enthusiast since my early teenage years, really becoming a full-fledged “birder” beginning after too many years of watching the Chicago Cubs late-season slides into the cellar. I first enjoyed fishing but could never catch a decent-sized fish. I then tried being somewhat of a rockhound, before discovering that most of the interesting rocks were to be found much farther west in the U.S. Finding a brilliant red Scarlet Tanager perched in the Black Walnut tree of my boyhood backyard led me to realize that there were more than robins and cardinals passing into and just beyond our large suburban backyard that made up my boyhood home. Once the “wild” area just beyond our back fence became too small, exploring every inch of the much wilder environs surrounding my grandma’s and cousin’s country home each weekend, led me to even further explorations of all of the county parks in my boyhood home of east-central Illinois.
I now live in the glacial lakes region of Illinois, in the far, northwest suburbs of the Greater Chicagoland area. Though I have been visiting for many decades, both to birdwatch and to visit my now wife Sheryl, I moved here full-time just a few years ago. Bad points about moving from a much more rural Central Illinois… the traffic here is unbelievably terrible! Good points are lots of nice forest preserves (though they often suffer from the “Silent Spring” effect), and regular and frequent opportunities to see such great birds as Tundra Swans, Common Loons, Sandhill Cranes, Glaucous Gulls, Black-throated Blue Warblers & Nelson’s Sparrows which are scarce to non-existent at most places downstate. I guess with my wife, the move has been an even trade-off… just joking 🙂 !
Me hiking the Boot Canyon Trail in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, going to see my “lifer” Colima Warbler on April 21st, 1994 with my good, traveling birding friend at the time, Jim Eidel.
As a biologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey, I have now surveyed and studied birds throughout the state of Illinois for many years. Much of my early work involved surveying breeding birds in Illinois. Some of my more enjoyable times were spent throughout the 1990’s roaming some of the more wild parts of far southern Illinois while searching for bird nests for a long-term ornithological study on Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism of Neotropical migrants, on Dr. Scott Robinson’s many years of research there. Most of this research was conducted in the deciduous uplands within the Shawnee National Forest, as well as in the bottomland swamps and riverine areas of the Cache River Biosphere Reserve in Union, Johnson, Pulaski and Alexander Counties. However I also spent some time assisting on some of Scott’s other project areas in my home county of Vermilion, at Lake Shelbyville, as well as in several areas in the northwest corner of the state, especially at the Lowden-Miller State Forest which was unknown by state birdwatchers at the time (and now a favored area to birdwatch and look for rare state breeding species). Far Southern Illinois also held many interesting snakes, salamanders and various other intriguing animals not found in my boyhood home. I currently conduct breeding bird surveys throughout most of Illinois’s 102 counties in the late spring and summer for another long-term ecological study, the Critical Trends Assessment Program. Lastly, I was part of the multi-year project replicating a survey of Illinois’s birds throughout the state conducted between 1906-1909 by one of the early fathers of ecological study at the time, Stephen A. Forbes, then repeated by noted ornithologists Richard and Jean Graber at the Survey between 1956-1958, and repeated again by myself with several other ornithologists with the I.N.H.S. between 2007-2010. That research resulted in the publication in 2010 of the book, Illinois Birds: A Century of Change. Along the way I have learned about a variety of Illinois’s other plant and animal life, and enjoy continuing to learn new things about birds, bird behavior and other aspects of the flora and fauna to be found in Illinois, throughout the U.S. and in the many other countries that my wife Sheryl and I visit on our vacations. We especially enjoy traveling to the New and Old World Tropical regions. I have also always enjoyed traveling to and reading about the birds and other wildlife to be found just to our north in the Boreal Forest and tundra regions of the U.S. and Canada.
Me on our Feb. 2010 birding trip to Ecuador.
Besides nature, I enjoy a variety of different types of music, with my favorite being folk, folk-rock and rock, especially to include John Denver, Dan Fogelberg, Billy Joel, Elton John, Sarah Mclachlan and the like. And of course, hiking and biking on Lake County biking trails, and in parks, & natural areas wherever I may be, often while birding or checking out Illinois’s remaining prairie, wetlands and older remaining patches of forest, is where I spend most of my time…when I’m not behind a computer. Though I was once a sports-aholic, I now only rarely watch or attend a baseball, football or basketball game. I am now a book-aholic and have built up a fairly large library of books on birds, travelogues, and various other mostly nature-related subjects. And did I mention I love to travel? I have visited a good portion of the United States, mostly on birding trips, including over 35 states, Mexico, Newfoundland, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador, Colombia, Thailand and Uganda. I can’t wait for my next adventure!