Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blog-erview with Peter Stangel

Peter Stangel coordinates bird conservation efforts for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Atlanta. He also writes the Conservation Corner department in each issue of WildBird and serves on the magazine's Advisory Board, providing timely and humorous advice about various topics.

Peter and I met in April 2002 but not at a birding event. He treated me to lunch during my visit to Atlanta, one destination in a two-week solo road trip from California in my 30-year-old car. He even consented to pose for photos with my rubber duck, Cortes.

Now, Peter has consented to participate as the inaugural interviewee in (what I hope will become) regular light-hearted "conversations" with WildBird contributors. Peter also deserves credit for creating the word "blog-erview" to describe a blog-published interview (c:

Without further ado:
Did a specific event/species encourage you to start birding?
I don't remember a particular event or species getting me started; I just seem to have been born with the interest.

There were, however, several people and events that stimulated my interest. John Kieran, an author and avid naturalist, showed me many good birds and plants when I was a young teen. I remember vividly that even though his vision was failing, he could identify everything by ear; that really encouraged me to learn more about bird song.

As a teen, I discovered two pretty rare birds for eastern Massachusetts, a Yellow-headed Blackbird and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. The attention that those two birds generated from other birders was pretty exciting!

Where do you like to bird most often?
In my yard. After that, the South Carolina coast, especially Huntington Beach State Park in the winter--great waterbirds. (Did you know that there's a Huntington Beach State Park in Southern California? It hosts endangered nesting Least Terns. -- Ed.)

Which species is your nemesis, the one that repeatedly eludes you?
Curlew Sandpiper. I've given up looking for them when they appear on the East Coast.

Do you consider yourself a "bird nerd," and why or why not?
Hmmmm. I don' think so, but then others may disagree. I think of bird nerds as being reclusive and introverted.

Describe your dream birding trip: who, where, when, why, how long, which species.
I'd like to go to the arctic duing the early spring, when all the migrants are nesting. I'd like to take along President Bush and Vice President Cheney and share with them the beauty of the area. I'd really like to see some jaegers in their breeding plumage.

How do you feel about rubber ducks?
I was always a little uncomfortable with them until I saw the editor of WildBird being photographed with one. After that, they seemed OK.

What is your favorite birding book (other than a field guide) and why?
I enjoyed reading Eye of the Albatross by Carl Safina. Great story about these magnificent birds and how we nearly pushed them over the edge.

How do you encourage the next generation of birders?
Get them into the field looking at birds. It's also important for young people to know that birding is fun and cool. If they meet more birders who embody those traits, the more likely they are to get involved.

Which do you enjoy eating more: turkey, duck, chicken, quail?
Turkey, if it's smoked and moist.

Describe your worst birding experience.
Arriving at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico for several days of birding with a brand new spotting scope that had a loose lens that wouldn't focus.

Do you consider birding a social activity, and why?
Yes--because two-thirds of the fun for me is sharing birds with others. Birds are better when other people are around.


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