I always love interviewing fellow birders. Steven Grogger, of The Joy of Birds, is one of the best! His passion and enthusiasm shines through here and is an inspiration to all of us in the birding community.
Hope you enjoy!
1) When did you first become interested in bird watching and what has kept you interested?
I first became interested in bird watching while deployed to Iraq. I would see hundreds of birds roost in trees just outside my Field Operating Base. Then I started to notice nesting swallows in an underground bunker and pigeons nesting in destroyed tanks and was amazed that birds can endure and thrive in such a violent environment. When I returned from deployment my wife wanted a Pied Cockatiel. I started to understand the nuances of his behavior, and birds became individuals with personalities. Learning about the thousands of species of birds in the world and their unique adaptations, as well as observing the behavior of common birds, maintains my interest. My wife and I plan our trips/adventures around opportunities to view, photograph, and video record birds with the hope ofsharing an appreciation of how wonderful birds are; this is why we started our blog http://thejoyofbirds.com/
2) Where are you located and what species do you spend most of your time observing?
I’m located in Peyton, Colorado on the plains near Colorado Springs. From day-to-day I do not focus on a particular species, but try to find local rarities or birds I have not been able to photograph. During the spring, my wife and I try to find the migrating birds and this year will be viewing Gunnison Sage Grouse and looking for American Dipper chicks and Sandhill Crane colts.
3) Are you active in a local or online birding community?
I post to and frequently checkthe Colorado Field Ornithologist rare bird alert site. During spring/summer we volunteer at a local animal rehabilitation center where we assist the staff in taking care of injured/orphaned birds. We also volunteer with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife to transport animals(mainly birds) and monitor bluebirds during their nesting season.
4) What is your favorite bird or your favorite birding moment? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything rare, just something meaningful.
My favorite birding moment happened on one of our first bird adventures and hooked us on bird watching. After camping overnight at Rocky Mountain National Park, we headed off on an early morning tundra hike. Based on our reading, we assumed we would spend hours looking for the elusive White-tailed Ptarmigan. As it happened, five minutes into the hike we spotted two photographers, who pointed out a Ptarmigan. To our amazement, the Ptarmigan slowly approached us. A few minutes later, the Ptarmigan spotted a potential rival at the top of the hill and flew off after it. The photographers started on the long hike up the hill, but we were satisfied with the encounter and returned to the car. As we put our equipment back in the car, we heard the Ptarmigan call and to our pure delight and astonishment the Ptarmigan landed on the guard wall a few feet in front of us! It clucked several times while walking towards us before wandering down the hill. We felt we had made a connection with the bird and it was a thrilling experience.
5) Do you have a competitive birding interest ie a year list or life list?
Although finding a new bird is exciting, I do not have a competitive birding interest. One day I may count and write a complete list of the birds I have seen and photographed, but I enjoy watching the behaviors of birds, even if I’ve seen them hundreds of times.
6) What is your favorite place you’ve been bird watching? This includes a birding vacation or even your own backyard.
One of my favorite places to bird watch is the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida. Wild birds nest in trees above the alligators for protection from predators. It is remarkable to see the nesting behavior of egrets, herons, Wood Storks, and Roseate Spoonbills and watch as their chicks grow up.
7) What is the farthest you have traveled to see a particular bird?
The longest trip we have taken to see a particular bird was about 400 miles to see the mass migration of Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska. It was awe-inspiring to see 50,000 to 70,000 Sandhill Cranes fly in during sunset and roost along a small stretch of river. (You can learn more about birdwatching in Nebraska here).
And because this is AllBestBinoculars.com, we have to ask….
8) What was your first pair of binoculars?
A Jason 8 x 21 model 117.
9) What is the best pair of binocs you’ve ever owned?
The best pair of binocs my wife lets me “borrow” is a Nikon Monarch 10.5 x 45, but I mainly bird watch with a 400 or 600mm photography lens.
10) The worst?
The Jason model 117, even though they can fit nicely in a pocket.