Below is our interview with Cathleen, aka The Birding Girl! Cathleen goes into great detail about how she got into birding, what online communities she’s involved in with other birders & her favorite pair of binoculars (HINT — It’s not even close to what you think it might be!).
Hope you enjoy!
1. When did you first become interested in bird watching and what has kept you interested?
I would say it really began when I was old enough to learn what a Baltimore Oriole was. My grandmother would get so excited whenever she would get one at her feeder, which happened every couple years or so. I have a distinct memory of her showing me its photo and description in her Peterson’s Guide, and then reading it cover to cover. She has since passed away and I have her Peterson’s Guide now, which makes it really special. Other members of my family, like my mom and her cousin, also share a love of bird watching and birding so it runs in the family.
I’ve maintained my interest in bird watching because I’m motivated by my blog, BirdingGirl.blogspot.com, where I post pictures and stories of my birding trips and bird watching adventures while traveling. Having a backyard feeder and getting more involved in local birding groups and trips also helps.
2. Where are you located and what species do you spend most of your time observing?
I’m located in Southeastern Massachusetts where birds like Ospreys, Carolina Wrens, White-throated Sparrows, and Great Blue Herons are common. The list could go on and on, but those are some of my favorite local birds to observe. I think the most interesting thing about moving from the Boston area to the more rural South Shore was the realization that we get a nice variety of warblers here too. Mt. Auburn Cemetery, located just outside Boston, is a warbler hot spot and I thought that was the only place I had a chance of seeing them. Then I started birding at some of our local farms and conservation areas and was pleasantly surprised to find that we get yellow warblers, pine warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, blue-winged warblers, and more.
3. Are you active in a local or online birding community?
I go on local birding trips when I can, but I admit I don’t find as much time for them as I used to. I’ve been on Brookline Birding Club and South Shore Birding Club trips that were really helpful in furthering my birding knowledge. I would have to say my favorite “in person” birding trip is actually part of an online birding community I belong to- BwBTC (Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp). That was one of the most enjoyable things about starting my blog- becoming part of an online community and then getting to meet my fellow bloggers in person and going birding together.
I’m also enjoying becoming part of a new community of birders on Google+ who participate in photo themes like #birdpoker and share their best bird photos. It’s been a great way to discover new bird bloggers.
4. What is your favorite bird or your favorite birding moment? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything rare, just something meaningful.
It’s hard to pick one, but one of my favorite birding moments was when I lived and worked in Watertown Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Sometimes I would jog the 3 miles to work along the Charles River, and then walk home after work so I could casually bird. On one of my walks home I noticed a black-crowned night heron hunting for fish in one of the major dams. I had a really close view from the observation platform and he wasn’t going anywhere so I called my husband at home to bring me my good camera. A sign of true love- he got in the car and rushed it to me so I could get a good picture for my blog.
5. Do you have a competitive birding interest ie a year list or life list?
I’ve tried to get into keeping a life list but it hasn’t really stuck. Since all the birds I see are documented on my blog through tags and photos I use that instead as my motivation to get new species and a way to keep track of what I have seen.
6. What is your favorite place you’ve been bird watching? This includes a birding vacation or even your own backyard.
My favorite place to go bird watching has to be Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Springtime birding there is so exciting, and it’s possible to see so many beautiful species in one place that I try to make it at least once a year. Some of my favorite birds seen there include Indigo Bunting, Magnolia Warbler, and American Redstart.
7. What is the farthest you have traveled to see a particular bird?
It’s not necessarily the farthest, but one of my favorite memories is getting up early on a Saturday morning in the winter to drive half an hour to Plymouth Harbor to see a rare Ivory Gull that was hanging out with the seagulls in the parking lot and then on one of the jetties. That was one of my earliest encounters with die-hard birders with their scopes and huge lenses. I remember how friendly everyone was and it really encouraged me to continue getting into birding.
And because this is AllBestBinoculars.com, we have to ask….
8. What was your first pair of binoculars?
I still have my first pair of binoculars, which are Nikon Action 8x40s. I remember anxiously driving into the city to buy them the day before my first MassAudubon Bird-a-thon so I wouldn’t be called out as being a novice. It was so exciting- at that point I became “official” in my eyes.
9. What is the best pair of binocs you’ve ever owned?
It might sound strange, but I have a small pair of Sharper Image binoculars with a built-in digital camera that are remarkably sharp. They’re not very practical, and the digital camera pictures never come out as good as you think they will but I still like them.
10. The worst?
I have an old pair of Tascos that I picked up for $5 at a flea market this summer. The lenses are pretty foggy, but I like the security of knowing they’re in my car for birding emergencies.