Thursday, May 25, 2006

Blog-erview with June Osborne

June Osborne enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys birds. She's written four books -- The Cardinal, The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, I'd Rather Be Birding and Birder's Guide to Concan, Texas (and Surrounding Area) -- and numerous articles and columns for WildBird. She currently pens the "View From a Room" column in each issue and lends a hand as an Advisory Board member for the magazine.

After years of enjoying phone calls with June, we finally met in February at the Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration in Brinkley, Ark. It was such a delight to spend time with June and her dry-witted husband, Harold. And now, here's your chance to spend a little time with June.

Did a specific event/species encourage you to start birding?
Thirty-one years ago in March, I was captivated by the many species of warblers migrating through the pecan bottoms of our local Cameron Park (Waco, Texas) when I was on a field trip with the instructor of a bird I.D. course at our community college. I was hooked then (1975), and I’m still hooked.

Where do you like to bird most often?
My favorite place to bird in the whole world is the Texas Hill Country--specifically, at Neal’s Lodges in Concan, where I am Resident Birder every April and May. I go there as often as possible, usually three times a year in different seasons. (Never in summer when there are too many "tourists"!) (That's June and Harold, above, at Neal's Lodges.)

Which species is your nemesis, the one that repeatedly eludes you?
I’ve looked for the Connecticut Warbler for years! One summer, we repeatedly drove a three-mile stretch in northern Minnesota where the bird nests, three days in a row, hearing the bird sing all along the route but never seeing it. I guess that’s one species I’ll just have to count as "heard only" on my Life List.

Do you consider yourself a "bird nerd," and why or why not?
I don’t think of myself as a "bird nerd." My kids and friends might see me that way, but I don’t. I am totally fascinated with seeing birds and learning all I can about them, but it’s not the end of the world if I miss one now and then, or if I cannot distinquish between a species and subspecies. If that makes me a "nerd," then so be it.

Describe your dream birding trip: who, where, when, why, how long, which species.
My dream is to go on a birding tour to Antarctica with my friend Greg Lasley as guide. Of course, I would want my husband, Harold, to be there, too. I have always dreamed of seeing Wandering Albatross, because I’ve told schoolchildren about them many, many times and showed them with a long tape measure how long their wingspan is (11 1/2 feet) and told them how they soar and soar for hours or days without flapping their wings. I have seen other species of albatross at the tip of South America, but my dream is to see the Wandering Albatross. I doubt that I’ll ever get to make that trip.

How do you feel about rubber ducks?
I love them! Especially yours!

What is your favorite birding book (other than a field guide) and why?
Currently, my favorite birding book is Tim Gallagher’s The Grail Bird, because I am so fascinated with the search and re-discovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I know there is controversy about this sighting, but I have to say I am a true believer in the sighting, the men who confirmed it, and the hope that more will be found in The Big Woods of Arkansas, not far from the little town where I was born. I guess that’s why I feel a special connection with the
ivory-bill: because we share the same home roots.

How do you encourage the next generation of birders?
By teaching a beginning birders workshop during Nature Quest in Concan every April and by teaching my 6-year-old grandson all about birds, how to spot them and how to recognize their songs. Also, in years past, I have given uncounted educational presentations to groups of school children, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire groups and children’s church groups.

Which do you enjoy eating more: turkey, duck, chicken, quail?
Actually, I like all four.

Describe your worst birding experience.
I wrote about my very worst birding experience in a species profile on the American Dipper for WildBird, May/June 2004. Here it is, changed a little from the original text:

Because the American Dipper is a bird of the mountains of the American West, I don’t get to see it as often as I’d like. Four years ago when my husband asked where I’d like to go for my birthday, my answer was unequivocally, "Red River, New Mexico!" I wanted to look for a dipper in the same location we’d seen it many years before when we were there for a family vacation. I knew it wouldn’t be the same bird, but I thought perhaps its progeny would be bobbing along the same half-mile territory of that mountain stream 20 years later.

Checking into our motel in Red River at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, I couldn’t wait to go to Junebug Campground in Carson National Forest right outside town. With quickening heartbeat, we walked to the stream and caught an oh-so-fleeting glimpse of the charming little bird right where we expected it. With plans to spend the next two days watching the dipper to my heart’s content, we went back to the motel. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.

During the night I began itching all over so badly that I couldn’t sleep. Before daybreak on Thursday, I was broken out from head to toe with a rip-roaring case of hives. In my discomfort, I was jumping around almost as incessantly as the dipper does. Seventeen hours after arriving in Red River, we knew we must head back to Waco for me to see my doctor.

Our brief sighting the day before confirmed in my mind the fidelity of dippers to the same "half-mile of territory along mountain streams," for most birds (or their offspring) return to the previous year’s breeding site as well as the same winter territory. My malady turned out to have been caused by an allergy to an antibiotic I had recently taken, but that was no comfort when I had to give up the chance to observe one of my favorite birds for two solid days.

Do you consider birding a social activity, and why?
Yes, it is very social. During my 31 years of birding, I have met literally thousands of people from all over the world, and I have made numerous lasting friendships. The camaraderie between birders when sharing an experience is unsurpassed.


Blogger sally said...

We were traveling through Cameron Tx Mothers Day 5-11-2008 and saw 2 bird flying that reminded us of the Albatross. One black and white... the other flying over downtown that looked like it had a pink head tail and beak... maybe featherless.. such an unusual sighting.. we are always looking got hawks.. Has any one else spotted any thing like this?

May 12, 2008 10:32 AM  

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