Saturday, February 11, 2017

Behind the Lens; A Birding Interview with Wayne Hoch

Welcome to my second (long overdue) "Behind the Lens" birding interview with my great friend and birding colleague, Wayne Hoch.

Wayne at the Big Sit 2016, By: Little Bird Nerd

I originally met Wayne in early 2014 at the home of the Hinces, a pair of talented and stellar birders who graciously accepted me into their nest. It was at this small gathering of birding enthusiasts that I met many of my favorite birders, all of whom I now consider family, connected not by blood but by feathers. I remember from that first meeting Wayne's boisterous, upbeat, and somewhat kooky personality, and today, those traits are things I still very much appreciate about Wayne.

Brought up in Northern Michigan amidst harsh climates and personal obstacles, Wayne is one of the toughest people I know, with one of the sunniest outlooks on life. This guy is immune to poison ivy, oblivious to the cold, and undeterred by the trials and obstacles of life. To know Wayne is to know a hard working family man, a character and jokester, and someone whose contagious love of birds and nature is hard to resist.

Wayne at a Ford House Bird Walk w/WBU Grosse Pointe Woods, By: Little Bird Nerd

So let's hear from the man himself, the man I have saved in my phone as "Wayne the Bird Brain"...

LBN: So let's get some of the basics out of the way. How long have you been birding?

WH: 5 years ago, my wife started feeding the squirrels peanuts, and then a Bluejay came down and took one. So, we decided to buy a birdfeeder and that's what started me on this awesome venture we know as birding, or birdwatching.

Blue Jay, By: Wayne Hoch

LBN: Very cool. I know you're still very much into the birds of your backyard. The variety of species that have come to your yard is something of a legend in our birding circle. How many birds did you have at your old yard?

WH: 146

LBN: That's amazing! I know you recently moved and are working on the new yard list too.

WH: Yes, working on it at 42 species so far.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Wayne's yard, By: Wayne Hoch

LBN: So of all the birds out there, do you have a favorite? I know you have a "thing" for woodpeckers... what is it about them you like so much?

WH: Yes, Pileated Woodpecker would be my favorite. And about woodpeckers, they're very majestic, very colorful, and come in so many different shapes and sizes. I love how they make their nests by hitting their beaks thousands and thousands of times without injuring themselves, and how their nests help many other species of bird and animal when they're done using them.

LBN: I should have guessed Pileated since it's on your license plate! :) Very cool. I know aside from birds, something that stands out about you is your interest in butterflies. Can you tell me more about that?

WH: My interest in butterflies has been around since I was a kid. I didn't know much about them but they were very fascinating. After I became a birdwatcher I really started paying attention to them, studying them and even raising them. Over the last couple of years I have raised over 100 Black Swallowtail butterflies and about 100 Monarch butterflies.

Female Monarch, By: Wayne Hoch

LBN: Yes, whenever I hear you talk about butterflies, it really makes me want to study them more too. You were the one who taught me little facts like how to tell the difference between a male and female Monarch (males have the extra black spot on the bottom of the wing). So, going back to birds, how many species do you have on your life list?

WH: 277 species

LBN: Very nice. Do you have a most memorable life bird?

WH: I don't think I have a most memorable, but I do have 2 favorites- White-winged Crossbill and Yellow-billed Cuckoo in my backyard.

LBN: What's the farthest you've traveled for birding?

WH: I have been to Ohio a few times, Magee Marsh and Oak Openings.

LBN: Well, that may not be as far as some, but you've certainly had more success than most of us without ever leaving your property! Anywhere you'd love to go birding in the future?

WH: South America. There are so many beautiful birds down there. I want to see Tanagers, Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers...

LH: Something that's really cool about your approach to birding is you really like taking videos. There could be 15 birders taking photos of the same bird, and you'll be the one birder who takes a video. I think that's an awesome way to relive the experience and to learn some of the behaviors of the birds you watch.

WH: Yes, I just really enjoy taking videos, and I have a youtube channel with hundreds of them.

Link to Wayne's YouTube channel is here. Check it out, it's awesome!

LBN: Okay, really important question- what's the biggest lesson that birding has taught you?

WH: To love nature more than I already do, and all the great friendships I have made during my journey as a bird watcher/birder.

Wayne and me at the Christmas Bird Count, 2016, By: Wayne Hoch
A life bird Wayne spotted for me, Lapland Longspur, on the Christmas Bird Count, By: Little Bird Nerd

LBN: Thank you, Wayne, for being my interviewee, and for being patient with me while I dragged this interview out a few months...haha. Happy Birding! ♫ >(')

Wayne and his wife Jackie  

Wayne's daughter, Angelina

I want to close this interview with a few final remarks about Wayne. In case you haven't met him, look out for him birdwatching out on the trails, or helping with the Wild Birds Unlimited Ford House Bird Walks. Be prepared to meet a person who says exactly what he's thinking, whether it be some crazy, unedited outburst, or a heartfelt, sincere string of words that make you remember about all the good in the world. You'll hear him speak proudly and lovingly about his wife Jackie and his daughter Angelina (who happens to be a very articulate and kind young lady, also interested in birds and in wolves). You'll probably learn something new about local birds, butterflies, and other aspects of nature. And you'll get to experience a guy who would give you the shirt off his back, no question (although, like I said, he's immune to the cold so he probably wouldn't miss it). Birding has brought so many wonderful people into my life, and Wayne is one of the best!


  1. This is awesome, you certainly have captured Wayne very well.

    1. Thank you! This means a lot coming from the person who knows him the most.

  2. This is a really nice post of an awesome guy. I love how this community brings together people who would have never known each other if it wasn't for there shared love of birds an all things nature.

    1. SOOO true! So blessed to have all these people in my life, including you and Jen.