A Contemplative Christmas – 2014

white trumpet-shaped daylily with drops faded filter- Holmes Co OH - 2014-07-02

white trumpet-shaped daylily with drops – Holmes Co OH – 2014-07-02 Photo by Greg Miller

Earlier in my life I discovered just how amazingly easy it was to be lonely. Lonely is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, or the color of your skin, or whether you are male or female, or where you work, etc. I found out that loneliness doesn’t have anything to do with how many people are around either. I was shocked at how lonely one can feel while married. Or in a crowd. Continue reading

On Making Missteaks

Blue-winged Teal male nice reflection - Viera Wetlands - Melbourne FL - 2014-01-27 IMG_4019

Blue-winged Teal male nice reflection – Viera Wetlands – Melbourne FL – 2014-01-27 photo by Greg Miller

Some Upcoming Events

High Plains Snow Goose Festival Feb 20, 2014 Lamar, CO
Beckham Bird Club Annual Dinner Mar 11, 2014 Louisville, KY
Big O Birding Festival Mar 13, 2014 LaBelle, FL
Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival Mar 20-23, 2014 Spring Hill, FL
Road Trip from Ohio to Arizona
watch for updates on my Facebook page!
Apr 11-23, 2014 OH to AZ
Verde Valley Birding and Wildlife Festival Apr 24-27, 2014 Cottonwood, AZ
Biggest Week in American Birding May 6-15, 2014 Oregon, OH
Acadia Birding Festival May 29-Jun 1, 2014 Bar Harbor, ME
Ecuador: Northern Andes and Amazon with Greg Miller
registration closes April 10!
Aug 8-23, 2014 Quito, Ecuador

Aack!  I am at a hawk watch and I just misidentified a Red-tailed Hawk as a Red-shouldered Hawk.  Oh, my!  I just pointed out a Lesser Yellowlegs and it called and it was really a Greater Yellowlegs.  Sigh.  I just posted a picture of a bird that I identified as a Song Sparrow but really it was a Savannah Sparrow.

How frustrating!  Making mistakes in front of other birders makes you feel foolish, embarrassed, and very self-conscious.  But how can you avoid birding mistakes?  Just give up trying?  Let someone else call out the birds?  Don’t lead any more bird walks?  Just stay silent every time you are with a group?  Stop birding altogether?  Hopefully you haven’t considered quitting. Continue reading

Two Years After The Big Year Movie

Two years ago last month (October) the movie, The Big Year, was released. I personally have seen the movie 24 times since then. Of course I really liked the movie. I am biased though. I got to proofread the script and I got to be on the movie set as a Bird Consultant. What a surreal experience! It still seems like a dream. Like it never truly happened. A Hollywood movie with A-List stars (Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson) was the last thing I would have expected from my Big Year in 1998. So many things had to happen to make this a reality. I often wondered “Why me?” Most folks reserve that for bad experiences. But I soon realized it really wasn't about me. It was waaay bigger! What is it? There is a new wave of popularity in birding. And I am privileged to be riding along with this one! And I can't help believing that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what is about to be! I am full of hope for our future!

Recently someone asked me how many times I've spoken. Great question. I was curious myself. My friend, Erica Rusk, compiled a list of all the places I've been in the last two years. She has been keeping my calendar for me these last two years. Thank you, Erica! Here is a map I put together with Erica's list and a website called Batchgeo.

Thank you everyone! It has been wonderful traveling all over America (and Canada, too) talking about a contest I didn't win and signing books I didn't write!


View After The Big Year Movie in a full screen map


Letter To Dad 2013-11-22

Green Jay on arch - Bentsen Rio Grande SP - near McAllen TX - 2012-12-06

Green Jay on arch – Bentsen Rio Grande SP – near McAllen TX – 2012-12-06 photo by Greg Miller

Dear Dad,

A whole lot of people remember JFK on this date.  He was a leader that inspired many people to reach beyond themselves and do great things.  But a few folks will remember you.  Like me, they valued your friendship and respected your character.  And it was you that helped me gain the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  JFK I did not know.  But I did know you.  You were my father, my birding mentor, and my friend.  And for that, I am glad.

I lost you on this day 13 years ago, November 22, 2000. I had just moved back to Columbus, OH and got a job there so I could be closer to you during your final days. Little did I know that those final days would only be 2 weeks. <sigh> Your physical presence here on this planet is sorely missed. Much has happened since then. Continue reading

What motivates you?

Chilly Cape May Warbler during Biggest Week in American Birding - Magee Marsh - May 2013     photo by Greg Miller

Chilly Cape May Warbler during Biggest Week in American Birding – Magee Marsh – May 2013 photo by Greg Miller

When it comes to motivation there are many factors.  But which factors are the ones that motivate us to action?  Many things inspire us and make us feel good or positive but often we just talk about those things and not much happens.

So how does a dream become a reality?  How do you make anything happen?  How does anything get done?  Wanna achieve something great?  What are you doing today that counts?  Great questions.

Wanna know one of the most serious motivations that got me to actually do a Big Year?  Oh, sure I had already daydreamed about a big year–trying to see as many birds as I could in one calendar year.  For me there were several factors that added up to the point where I heard a story–a story that helped put me over the edge.  I will share it here.

In the late 1990s I remember talking to my cousin and birding friend, Kent Miller.  He related a story about people he knew.  I may not get the details quite right, but I hope you do not miss the point.  Because it is the meaning of the story that caught my heart and helped motivate me to action.

Kent told me the story of an older married couple.  They were birders.  They loved to go birding together.  But they took no big birding trips anywhere.  Instead they saved up for a glorious retirement together.  They dreamed of traveling to many places and birding together when they had the time during retirement.  And they saved their money.  They worked hard for many years and stored their money for a grand retirement of years birding together.  It is a great dream!

Then retirement finally came!  They started taking those birding trips together.  The trips they’d dreamed all their lives of doing.  And the birding was fun, of course.  But it came no where close to meeting their expectations.  Declining health was one of those unanticipated things.  They found they couldn’t hear the birds as well as they had hoped.  And their eyes were not as sharp.  And they just could not get around as easily as they had expected.  To top it all off, their money did not go as far as they had imagined.  In short, the very life they had dreamed of for so many years was a disappointment.

That story hit me with such great clarity.  Enjoy what you have while you can!  Oh, I am not saying you should not save up for retirement–because you should!  What I am saying is that we should acknowledge that we are not invincible.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds.  We cannot predict the future.  Sure you should save up for retirement.  It will take a lot of money when you get there–if you get there.  Balance what you save with learning to enjoy what you have right now.

Live your life with no regrets.  When you get to the end of your life and you look back on the life you lived, do you wish you would have done this or that?  I dare say one of those things you probably would not say is “I wish I would have spent more time at the office”.

Can you see with your eyes?  Be thankful.  Can you hear with your ears?  Be glad for that.  Can you walk with your legs and feet.  Be happy.  There are those that don’t have what you have.  Focus more on what you have now than the things you do not have.  Every day I am happy to wake up and have another day to live.

Today I will be happy to see and hear whatever birds are near me.  It truly is one of the most simple joys of life.

The birds are not worried about the stock market.  They don’t read the newspapers.  They are not laden with the cares that we take upon ourselves.  I heard a Northern Cardinal sing this morning.  And I was inside.  The windows and door were closed.  It was loud.  And it made me happy.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mr. Cardinal just came over to Greg’s house and sang a song to make him happy, too!

Are you feeling ordinary?  You don’t feel important?  Is today boring to you?  You are in a good place.  Everyone faces their own ordinary, unimportant feelings.

Know this: Life is not made up of super humans running around in capes and doing super human deeds.  It is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things with their lives.

Happy New Year (belated)

Happy New Year! (this is just my way of acknowledging those of you on a linear time-space continuum thingie).  Haha!  Whaaaaat??!?  Yes.  Well.  It is also my excuse for being, oh, say, 12 days late coming into the New Year.  What can I say?

First off [getting down to business—kind of] think back through your life, year-by-year. (and yes, it’s OK to use the venerable linear timescale we call a calendar).  Can you pick a year and say, “Hey!  That was the best year of my life!”  What year was that?  Why was it so special?  What did you do (or what happened to you) that made it so grand?  How much control over that year did you have?  Were you responsible [at least in part] for the best year of your life?

Now let’s get to the second step. (See?  We are moving quickly now!  Haha!  Look out 12 days gone by!)  Now that you have picked out the best year of your life, think on this:  What would it take to make 2012 better than that year?  Uh-oh.  I can hear some of you thinking loudly here—and you are already ahead of me—you see where I am going with this!

Yesssssssssssssss!  Step 3.  Here’s what I want: For all of you to have 2012 be the new best year of your life!  It can happen.  Many of you have probably already made some New Year’s resolutions.  Have you broken any yet?  How does that make you feel?  Are you seeing new successes or does 2012 feel like any other mediocre year?  Any good plan has to have a way to measure your success along the way for you to get from point A to point B.  If you cannot measure it, you will never succeed.  Why?  How can you tell when you’ve achieved your goal if you can’t measure it along the way?  How do you know you got there?

Four paragraphs, Greg, and you haven’t even mentioned birding once yet!  Hang on to your hats friends.  You’ve gotten this far.  Besides, it’s only been since…wait…when was my last blog on birding?  Yeah.  Some time before Thanksgiving last year.  In this day and age, that might as well be the Jurassic Period.  I have not been out birding much at all since that time.  I came back from New Mexico and got sick.  Both ears clogged up so badly I had a hard time hearing human conversation.  It was bad enough that I missed a Christmas party or two just because it was so embarrassing to not hear well enough to hold a conversation without having the other person repetitively repeating the same thing over and over again. (now there’s a piece of grammar!)  Ahhaa.  Thankfully, over the last couple days I’ve seen some improvement in the hearing.

Back to our blog…how did I get so sidetracked?  What birding goals do you have for the year?  I hope they are fun ones!  Are you going to a conference you’ve never gone to but have always wondered what it was like?  Are you going birding in a new area that you are curious about?  Are you going to log your sightings (shameless plug for ebird!)?  How about something to promote birding?  Are you taking out someone new to birding?  Are you going to mentor a birder?  Are you going to introduce someone completely new to birding?  Are you going to join/support a birding or conservation club or organization this year?  How long are you going to put off doing things you’ve always wanted to do?  Maybe this is your year! (it sure should be!)

And finally, my blog-reading friends, the DVD for the movie, The Big Year, is due out on January 31, 2012.  Netflix & Redbox—you’ll have to wait for the streaming version until February 28, 2012.  You should read Laura Erickson’s fine review of the DVD, too, on the American Birding Association’s blog here.

Who’s The Best Birder In The World?

One of the statements set forth in the movie, The Big Year, is that the best birder in the world is the winner of the contest called The Big Year.  To me, this is as funny as the character, Brad Harris, having a limit of just one cookie–or as egregious an error as one of the many birds that are blatantly out of place in the movie.

Now I am speaking for myself.  I cannot speak for other birders.  First of all, best birder in the world should give you a big clue.  The world?  You mean the whole, entire planet?  ahaha!  Yeah, right.  The Big Year characters are doing an ABA (American Birding Association) big year–which includes the Lower 48 States, all of Canada, and Alaska.  So a person could easily win this big year without knowing a single African species, or Australian species, or…well…you get the picture.

Well, how about best birder in North America then?  This is a better question.  At least it addresses the geography better.  So what is the “best birder”?  What does that really mean?  Does the size of one’s list make that birder a “better” birder?  Nope.  I know lots of birders who just don’t get a chance to travel much, but they know their own smaller geographical area very well and have outstanding birding skills.  So does their smaller list make them a lesser birder?  No.  I don’t believe that. Continue reading

Topping off the week with…dessert!

Amish Peanut Butter Sundae photo: Greg Miller

Oh, man!  Yummy-licious!  What??!!!??  This is not a bird!  Sigh.  This is not a great diet either.  Hmm.  So why all the food lately?  Something deeper?  Ha!  You read my mind.  How did you do that?  Yeah.  I am doing some evaluation on future plans.  And waiting not-so-very-patiently on movie news.  And, well, I don’t seem to be very indecisive when it comes to food.  That sundae was sweet enough to shrivel your teeth on impact.  I can hear Dr. Phil’s voice in my mind now “It’s not the food you’re eating–it’s what’s eating you.”  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.  But I just might be eating this good food anyways.  Don’t take away my excuse!

Continue reading

Winning. Duh.

The house where I grew up--looking North

Pretty cool view looking North from my boyhood home, eh?  When that field was less manicured it used to be home to several pairs of Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows.  Meadowlarks are still there, but Bobolinks are less common now.  And that little pond has been a temporary hangout for some fascinating birds including Snow Goose, White-fronted Goose, and even Ross’s Goose.  One time a Bonaparte’s Gull dropped in and circled the pond a few times on it’s way North.  But I digress.  See?  I am already distracted.  I’ll start over again then.

Nooo.  This is not a blog about Charlie Sheen.  Haha!  But it *IS* about winning.  But what is winning?  Really.  Winning is pretty easy when we talk about sports.  Or is it?  In sports many folks measure winning by a score.  For football or baseball, for instance, the higher score “wins” and the lower score “loses”.  In golf, the lowest score wins and all the other other higher scores lose.  But really, that only represents a single game.  So if you win a tennis match, does that make you a “winner”?  What if you already lost 58 matches?  Are you still a winner?  Well yes, you did win–a match.  A single match.  But a winner? Continue reading

A Little Introspection

rhododendron with Boyd School House 2011-05-29

This is a rhododendron at mom’s house in Ohio.  It is where I grew up.  The building in the background is the old Boyd School House.  It’s a one-room schoolhouse that is no longer in operation.  My grandfather taught here for many years.  The woods behind it is my “home woods”.  It’s where I spent a lot of time birding as a boy.

Continue reading