We here at allbestbinoculars.com decided to take some time away from our product reviews to bring you an interview with a prominent New England birder. You may know Chris Bosak from his weekly nature column For The Birds, or from his radio show Bird Calls Radio. You may not know his work at all… but we suspect that will soon change.
1. You originally graduated from college and started working as the sports editor for a Vermont newspaper. How did you find the path that led you to your For the Birds column and eventually Bird Calls Radio?
To be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do in Vermont other than explore the woods and mountains, especially since I worked nights and had days off. Those working hours were a blessing as I got into mountain biking and that got me into the woods on a daily basis. Eventually I became curious about the wildlife, including birds, in the woods. So I began walking in the woods instead and really took in the beautiful scenery of New England. I became obsessed with finding a moose and naturally gravitated to birds, as well.
When I moved to New Hampshire and became the weekend sports editor of The Keene Sentinel, part of my job was to design the Outdoor Page, which ran on Sundays. Eventually I started a bi-weekly column about birds – really just describing my own bird experiences. Readers took to it quickly and it became a weekly column before too long. Thirteen or so years later, after I had moved to Connecticut, I saw a press release from a local radio station looking for brokered radio programs. I figured since I had more than 600 For the Birds columns under my belt, I could easily fill an hour a week talking about birds.
2. After years of writing your wildlife column (Chris has been writing For the Birds for various New England newspapers since 1999), what made you want to transition to radio? What does it feel like to reach out to people in a new medium?
It’s been great being on the radio because I can reach an entirely new audience, especially through the Internet. My “radio voice” is far from polished and I admit I’m not the most eloquent of speakers (even though I did kiss the Blarney Stone). Even through the “ums” and “ahs,” I think listeners get a sense for how much I love birdwatching and nature. I continue to write the weekly For the Birds column, too, and recently wrote my 625th column. Each column includes a bird photo I took, too.
3. Who are some of your favorite naturalist or conservationist authors out there? What might you recommend to someone who enjoys being in nature, but hasn’t had a lot of exposure to this type of writing?
My favorite nature writer is Patrick McManus. He writes a humor column for hunting and fishing magazines, and also has several books published. His writing is hilarious, but also informative about nature and being outdoors. I wish I could write more like him, but over the years I have developed my own style of writing and it’s important to have your own style.
I also enjoy reading books and articles by Pete Dunne, a New Jersey-based bird author. His writing is very creative and informative.
I tend to gravitate toward writers who are creative and humorous in their writing, rather than too straightforward or dry with facts or poetic or whimsical. I suggest finding articles by various nature writers, then find books from the authors you enjoy.
4. You speak a lot about the importance of teaching children to appreciate and enjoy nature. What are some tips you can give parents or teachers to encourage kids to be more active outside?
Good question. The most important thing is to simply get them outdoors, whether it’s playing sports, walking in the woods, or hanging out on the porch with the family. By being outside, they are exposed to the sights and sounds of nature: birding singing; crickets chirping; hawks soaring overhead; squirrels jumping from limb to limb.
Those are things that are not experienced if they are watching TV or playing video games. Also, get the kids in the woods as much as possible, too, and don’t worry if they get dirty or bitten by a few mosquitoes. Ticks are a big deal, but don’t let that stop you from getting the kids in the woods. Give them a thorough check when you get back inside. Just get the kids outside, whether it’s strictly for nature study or not.
5. What is your favorite bird or your favorite birding moment? It doesn’t necessarily need to be a rare species, just a moment you found meaningful.
I’ve always loved seeing hooded mergansers, a beautiful white, black and tan duck. They’ve always been my favorite, but I also count great blue herons, American oystercatchers, common loons and bobolinks among my favorites. Actually I like all the birds, who am I kidding?
6. I’ve heard you state that you do not have a life list. Why?
Maybe one day I’ll try to add them up, but it’s not something that is very important to me, I’m not a big traveler, even for birds, so my list would be limited by that. I’d rather spend a week camping in northern New Hampshire with common loons and moose than jetting off to India to add to my life list. But that’s just me.
I can see the allure of a life list and am interested in hearing about other people’s lists, but I haven’t had that urge yet.
7. What has been the reaction of the birding community to Bird Calls Radio?
I’ve been very surprised by how positive the reaction has been. The show is based in Connecticut, but when I run a contest or giveaway, I get responses from all over the country. It’s gratifying to know that what I’m doing in New England resonates with people on the West Coast, too.
8. Having a radio show where you get to spend an hour a week with someone who has the same hobby as you must be amazing. Who have been your favorite guests?
It is very fun, rewarding and educational to speak to the guests I have on every week. Mardi Dickinson, a friend of mine in Connecticut, books most of the guests and she gets me some of the biggest names in birdwatching. I’ve had local, state and national birding personalities and I’ve enjoyed them all. I really can’t single out any guest because I’ve honestly enjoyed all of them. I know it sounds like I’m side-stepping the question, but it’s true. That said, I’ve had two shows with John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and I’ve really had fun talking with him.
9. Conservation has become a very important cause for you, as it does for anyone who enjoys spending his or her time with nature. How can we, as individuals help?
Become a member or join the board of a local conservation organization, such as a land trust. Without open space, there is no birdwatching as we now know it.
Aside from that, there are tons of little things individuals can do. To name a few … Drink shade-grown coffee that is certified bird-friendly. Recycle. Keep cats indoors. Grow native plants and limit the use of pesticides. Educate others about nature. Be aware of the latest issues impacting birds and contact your representative about solutions. Get kids outdoors!
10. What is your favorite place that you’ve been bird watching? This includes a birding vacation or even your own backyard.
If I could be anywhere in the world birdwatching, it would be northern New England. I love the birds associated with the boreal forest. And you never know when you’ll see a moose, too! Northern New England just calls to me.
Listen to Chris on his show Bird Calls Radio.
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