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

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

Colorado October 2013

Wow! What is not to like about aspens in the fall? I am here in Colorado for Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s BBQ with the Birds tomorrow, October 5, 2013. Check out the RMBO website for more information. And of course, if you are in the area why not come and join me for the day’s festivities!

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.

In Honor of Ohio’s Barn Owl Pioneer

Young Barn Owl - Tuscarawas County, OH photo: Greg Miller

Last night, Paul Boyd of Holmes County, Ohio passed away after a long bout with sickness.  Paul Boyd is maybe Ohio best ambassador for Barn Owls.  His contribution to Ohio’s birding community is very special.  Many of you visited his farm and got to see your first-ever Barn Owl perched in a barn.  Paul designed and built many nest boxes.  He was instrumental in passing along his knowledge of nesting Barn Owls to many Amish farmers.  Ohio birders still enjoy coming to Amish Country to visit local farms hosting these intriguing creatures.

I can remember one Spring when his son installed an infrared camera inside the Barn Owl nest box.  For me, getting to view the owls so close and personal–well, it was especially fascinating.  I recall being totally surprised to see one of the baby Barn Owls swallow an entire rat…WHOLE!  The rodent was as large as the owlet!  How amazing!

Paul lived less than a mile from where I grew up.  He was my father’s friend and classmate in high school.  And he was also my very first employer.  Paul was a farmer and I baled hay for him for six summers between school years.  And no, we handled square bales with twine–not the large rolls of hay you see on farms today.  Those were long, hot summer days with lots of physical labor.  But I have fond memories of finishing and the feeling of great accomplishment.

I remember taking Paul out to Killdeer Plains and we found a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  Paul was elated to see this teeny owl.  It was a joy to show it to him.  Paul Boyd loved owls and gave much of his time and lots of effort in the nest box program and working the with State in banding and tracking the owls.

I don’t have many flowery words of prose to describe how blessed I was to know Paul.  But I am sure the Barn Owls will miss him.

My Birding Mentor

Dr. Bruce Miller on road to Chincoteague VA - early 90s photo: Greg Miller

Yesterday, April 4, would have been my father’s birthday.  I lost my father, friend, and birding mentor in late 2000.  He was a large animal veterinarian for the State of Ohio.  He was also a birder since a very young boy.  It was his patience and steady temperament that made him not only a good birder, but an outstanding mentor.  His approach to birding was thorough and meticulous, yet still he conveyed quiet joy and passion for the hobby. Continue reading

An April 1st Who-dun-it

Yesterday morning (3/31/2011) I found some tracks in the snow on the sidewalk in front of my house.

bird tracks in the snow, 3/31/2011 photo: Greg Miller

Haha!  You say you don’t have much information to go on?  Like size.  Are these tiny tracks, medium tracks, or large tracks?  What if I didn’t tell you?  There were more tracks in the snow that are not in this picture.  Am I being evil here?  Yes.  A little. Continue reading

A Birding Moment To Remember

February 5, 2000 Hatteras, North Carolina

Brian Patteson’s team of leaders, clad in Grunden orange foul weather gear, cut up fish near the stern of the boat. The air was tinged with a fishy smell that was soon overcome by the diesel fumes from the idling motors of the Miss Hatteras. The cold, gusty winds whipped into our faces as we bantered loudly over the sound of wind and engines. The wetness of the ocean air seemed to sneak into the warmest of apparel and surprise the wearer with an unexpected shiver.

Several birders opted to stay in the warmth of the cabin as we motored out of Oden’s Dock and headed into the gray-green waters of the winter Atlantic. The rest of us positioned ourselves around the perimeter of the boat as well as on the upper deck. The latter was my choice on this February 5 pelagic birding trip out of Hatteras, North Carolina. Continue reading

The Canoe Story

It was Friday morning, November 27, 1998—the day after Thanksgiving. I was satisfied with my look at a Spot-breasted Oriole on the grounds of the Baptist Hospital on 88th Street in Kendall, Florida. I looked at my watch. 8:30am. Wow. It’s early. Flamingos, here I come! I drove south on Rt 1 through town down through Homestead. In Florida City I turned west on 9336 and headed toward the Everglades. I gulped the last of my orange juice, chasing down the remains of an Egg McMuffin while watching all the Eurasian Collared Doves. I made a few notes to myself. They perch on top of lamp posts and telephone poles, unlike Mourning Doves. I also noted how they very often sat at sharp angles on the telephone lines like Kestrels. The chunky, squarish look of this bird in flight reminded me of a White-winged Dove. Speaking of which, hey, there is one! And there’s a Hill Myna on another telephone pole. I passed by Robert’s and thought someday I’ll stop for a Key Lime Milkshake. Continue reading

How I came to do a Big Year

By the time I was out of high school, I had already traveled with my family to every state west of the Mississippi River. My life list had grown, but it had a few nagging holes in it. We had traveled through Southeastern Arizona but we missed most of the great list of breeding birds in that area. Our travels were through dessert terrain along I-10. We stopped in Tucson. But many of the species we hoped for were not found even though it looked like we were in the right area according to those early range maps. But the available information changed dramatically in the 1970s. I was introduced to the Lane Birdfinding Guides (now ABA/Lane Birdfinding Guides). Continue reading