Below is our interview with Robert Mortensen from BirdingIsFun.com. Robert is an avid birder, hiker, camper and sometimes angler and hunter. He’s incredibly active int he online birding world — one of the most active, in fact. He got into birding less than a decade ago but has taken it up with a vigor!
I love interviewing birders and finding out their favorite birding moment and what it was that sparked their interest in birding. ForRobert it was an afternoon walk through a wildlife refuge in 2004. Anyway, here’s the interview!
Hope you enjoy!
1. When did you first become interested in bird watching and what has kept you interested?
I first became interested in birds in the summer of 2004 when my birder father-in-law handed me a pair of binoculars inviting me to go on an afternoon walk with him at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. Once I saw those Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Yellow Warblers, I was instantly addicted. I still haven’t lost that fascination and awe with respect to the amazing color of birds. I do enjoy the game of birding, in trying to see as many species as I can and I’m always excited to see another new bird. eBird has been a big part of why I continue birding too; being part of the greatest citizen science project of all time.
2. Where are you located and what species do you spend most of your time observing?
I currently live in Meridian, Idaho near Boise. I don’t have a specific focus on one group of birds over another as I simply try to see or hear as many bird species as possible every day.
3. Are you active in a local or online birding community?
I’m very active in the online birding world participating in social network and bird blogging. At the local level I contribute regularly to the local listserv when I see birds that may be of interest to others nearby. I attend and sometimes lead birding outings as often as I can.
4. What is your favorite bird or your favorite birding moment? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything rare, just something meaningful.
When I first got into birding, I was living in Mesa, Arizona. I invited my father-in-law down from Idaho a couple of times to enjoy the birds of southeastern Arizona. One of our main goals was to see the Elegant Trogon at Patagonia Lake State Park. We scouted the area one evening and then returned the next day. The birding was great all morning and we both were racking up life birds, but nobody was seeing the Elegant Trogon. Late in the morning we had given up and started walking back to the parking lot when suddenly a bird with a bright red belly flew just feet over our heads and into the trees just in front of us. It was the Elegant Trogon! We spent about an hour with it while inviting other birders passing by to come and see it. My father-in-law with tears in his eyes whispered, “I’ve been birding for 50 years and have seen illustrations of this bird in my field guides since I was a little boy. I never thought I’d see that day when I would get to see one with my own eyes.” It was a magical experience.
5. Do you have a competitive birding interest ie a year list or life list?
Since I am an eBirder, eBird keeps track of my lists very well. I occasionally engage in friendly competitions with other birders, but mostly I compete against myself. I’m in the planning stages for a county Big Year and I hope to break the record for most species seen in the county for the year and I’m gunning for the all-time country record.
6. What is your favorite place you’ve been bird watching? This includes a birding vacation or even your own backyard.
Southeastern Arizona has some of my favorite birding locations and I’ve had some amazing birding experiences there. Yet, my most personally fulfilling birding comes from my regular birding patches that I usually enjoy during my lunch hour. I get to know these places intimately and it’s fun to observe the comings and goings of each species in its season. When anything “different” shows up, I notice it immediately.
7. What is the farthest you have traveled to see a particular bird?
The most money I’ve personally spent to go birding was on a trip to the Midwest Birding Symposium in September 2011 in Lakeside, Ohio. There I added 14 life birds and reached the 400th life bird milestone. I regularly will drive up to three hours away to chase a new life bird, but otherwise I limit my long-distance birding to other family or business travel.
And because this is AllBestBinoculars.com, we have to ask….
8. What was your first pair of binoculars?
My first binocular was a loaner from my father-in-law. Old Pentax 10×50’s with one lens out of alignment. Then, in my binocular ignorance, I purchased a Bushnell 16×50 for around $60 from KMart, because “the more power, the better”, right? How wrong I was. They were not good optics for birding by any stretch of the imagination. The closest I could focus was 35 feet away and the field of view was very narrow. The image through the binocular was dark and dingy and I could never hold them steady enough to actually enjoy seeing anything through them.
I finally educated myself on binoculars and bought the best I could afford at the time, a $300 Eagle Optics Ranger SRT, which I still have and use regularly. It is a great binocular for the price and improved my birding and enjoyment of birds greatly.
Because of my birding website, Swarovski is currently loaning me a couple of Swarovski EL Swarovision binoculars, 8,5×42’s and 10×32’s which are both so amazing that I don’t know that I can ever go back to using anything else. My enjoyment of birding has further increased because of using these premium optics.