Sunday, July 17, 2016

Behind the Lens; A Birding Interview with Andrew Simon

As a new installment to the world of Little Bird Nerd, I have decided to begin a series of interviews with birders!

For my first interview, I spoke with friend and classmate Andrew Simon, whom I met at Walsh college just a few semesters ago.

My first interviewee: Andrew Simon
At first we didn't speak much, except to compare statistics notes, until one day the topic of birding arose. Andrew's eyes lit up as I talked about my birding adventures, and then he shared with me his far-reaching history of birding, which ended a few years back. Since then, he hadn't done much birding at all, and was reinvigorated by our conversation. I was happy to see him "get back in the game", and ever since, we've been close cohorts on many birding missions. We often compare sightings and swap stories, and now he is rising in the Macomb birding scene, as well as branching out well outside the county. It has been exciting to watch him track down many of the local bird species he had previously missed. I have also witnessed his willingness to share and connect with others who are interested in birds, including local birders, Facebook birding groups, and with his girlfriend Andi. He also happens to be a master juggler of his schedule: working full-time, going to school, and still squeezing in many more birding trips than I seem to manage! Since we began teaming up approximately 6 months ago, we have had much success. Of the 26 lifers (aka life birds = bird species one sees for the first time) I've seen this year, 9 of them have been while birding with Andrew.
Andi holds a Downy Woodpecker at Kensington Metropark (Andrew Simon, 2016)

LBN: When and how did you first get into birding?

AS: I honestly don't remember. It was so long ago. I've always loved animals and I remember when I was little, every bird was a "mingo" (flamingo). I think it really set in when I would visit my grandma who had a bunch of bird feeders and a Huge book of all of the Audubon pictures.

LBN: That's awesome! So when did you start keeping a life list?

AS: The first bird on my life list is a Sandhill Crane from March of 2003, coincidentally from my grandma's house in Florida.

LBN: So that was 13 years ago, what's your list looking like these days?

AS: Well, it spans 7 countries and 8 states. I found species #389 yesterday, a Crested Caracara, and #390 and #391 today, Piping Plover and Black-backed Woodpecker. My goal is 400 by December 31st.

Crested Caracara found in Munising, MI, 7/15/16 (Andrew Simon, 2016)
LBN: So you're moving at a pretty fast pace these days. Know how many lifers you've added this year?

AS: I've added about 50 this year but some of them were so easy it's like how have I not seen them before, others I traveled around the state for, and some of them are incredibly rare and just happened basically in my backyard like Whooping Cranes and a Kirtland's Warbler.

LBN: That's great, like double of what I have added this year. So you have said before that you sort of dropped out of birding for a time. Was there ever a year where you didn't bird at all?

AS: There were many years I didn't bird at all. Maybe from 2005 til present it was extremely sporadic and only on vacations. Life got in the way and I fell off the bandwagon for a while.

LBN: I've talked to other birders where this has happened for one reason or another, but maybe it's, "once a birder, always a birder" type deal? Anyway, I'm glad you're back at it! You mentioned your listing goal for the year; any other big goals or birding plans?

AS: I would like the 400 on my life list by the end of the year, and 200 in Macomb County for the current year. Otherwise just to have fun and meet new people.

LBN: Well you already met me so you really can't top that (*laughs*). Seriously though, what is the best lesson birding has taught you?

Lark Sparrow, a lifer for both of us! (Andrew Simon, 2016)

AS: Patience is a virtue.
And always bring a rain coat/hat and gloves, depending on the time of year, which is funny because I'm in the middle of the woods at Shiawassee and it's probably going to rain any time and my rain coat is in the car.

LBN: Too funny...! Alright, this question pains me because I can never really answer it, but I feel like I need to ask, do you have a favorite bird?

AS: Not as a whole but on my life list is now a toss between a Trinidad Motmot and the Caracara.

Trinidad Motmot (Andrew Simon, 2009 )

LBN: What about your most satisfying species (because of how long it took you to find it, how difficult was the search, its rarity level, etc.)?

AS: Most satisfying was the Whooping Crane. It is so rare that it ended up here in the first place, and between trying to figure out exactly where they were seen and driving an hour round trip sometimes twice a day for 4 days before finally seeing them, mere minutes before the Whooping Crane organization [Operation Migration] came to pick them up. That was the most satisfying.
Whooping Cranes in Macomb County (Andrew Simon,  2016)

LBN: Last question, do you have a nemesis bird (a bird that constantly eludes you)?

AS: I've found most of them, but maybe a Barred Owl or Long-eared Owl.

LBN: Ah yes! I remember finding both of these birds for the first time, on the same day, thanks to another great birder and friend, Kevin Rysiewski. But that's another interview for another day.

AS: I'm looking forward to seeing other people's interviews!

LBN: Thank you Andrew for taking the time to participate. Happy Birding! :)
Henslow's Sparrow, a lifer for both of us! (Little Bird Nerd, 2016)

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