Today is my 25th birding anniversary. Actually, the first date I have with a bird sighting was a Killdeer I saw 14 June 1977, and I made my first bird list for a cub scout requirement in July 1977. But 25 years ago today, I went from being a backyard birder, to a full-fledged birder and lister.
I had been an active herp enthusiast for several years, when I got invited to go on a week-long birding trip to Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon with Ron Keil, my junior high science teacher, and a couple van loads of other teachers and kids. We kept a bird list on that trip, and I got totally sucked in. While I only saw a couple lizards on this trip, I saw over 50 bird species, including my first Burrowing Owls, White-faced Ibis, Common Nighthawk, and American Avocets. It was life changing. Its all so burned into my mind that I can still tell you what I ate for dinner at the Malhuer field station on August 10, 1981--vegetarian spaghetti with zuchini, very tasty! Juice Newton's Queen of Hearts was climbing the pop charts, we watched the Perseid meteor showers from the top of Steens Mountain, and it was a magical time that changed the course of my life.
Birding is more than an obsession. It is a way of ordering your life--including your experiences and memories. Dates of important bird sightings and birding trips become etched in our psyches, and change our very souls. Many of us can tell you exactly when and where we were when that birding bug (and I'm willing to call it an infective virus) first hit us.
Me, I was twelve years old, twenty five years ago today, at Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge. For me, that is holy ground.
Black-winged Stilts breeding near Broome
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