Close Encounters of the Bird Kind: How I went looking for birds, and found adventure, fun, joy, love, and redemption.
Each of these blog posts is a transcript of a For the Birds podcast/radio program, though the blog post is often longer and more fleshed out due to time constraints for many radio stations that carry the program. I’ve been using these stories as part of keynote speeches titled Laura’s Best Bird EVER: How I went looking for birds, and found adventure, fun, joy, love, and redemption.
I wish I could get a hundred or so of these into book form. A very important bird book editor told me that “essay collections are really not a viable format in this day and age,” so this may be a pipe dream.
PART I: Twenty Three Years BB (Before Binoculars)
1953: House Sparrow Lullabies
1954: Pigeons Give Me the Edge
1957: Angel Birds outside my window.
1958: Whistling in a Cardinal!
1959: My First Encounter with a Blue Jay. Or listen to the podcast.
1959, 1976, and 1977: Pine Grosbeak, My Once Upon a Dream Bird. Or listen to the podcast.
1961 or so: Rocky the Homing Pigeon
1969: Dormitory visitors
1975: Triumph! My First Chickadee. Or listen to the podcast.
1975: Wild Alive! My First Living Pheasant
1975: Following a Meow to My First Catbird.
1975: Magical Dusk with Nighthawks.
1975: Researching House Sparrows at McDonald’s
1975: The Last Duck My Uncle Dick Ever Shot
1975: Cute Coots with Their White Snoots and the Snooty Birders Who Almost Spoiled It
1975:The Snowy Owl Whose Eyes Met Mine on Lake Shore Drive. Or listen to the podcast.
1976: Alone with a Great Horned Owl
1976: Beeeeee? My First Redpoll Brings Back My Grandpa
1976: Le Conte’s Sparrow: Tiny Ahab. Or listen to the podcast.
1976: I Learn Patience from a Pileated Woodpecker. Or listen to the podcast.
1976: Russ and I Share a Bald Eagle
1977: Backyard Sky Dance
1976: Vindication from a Singing Savannah Sparrow
1976: Brilliance in Savannah, Georgia: My First Painted Bunting Singing Away
1977, 1990, 2015: Brown Thrasher Family Mourner
1977: Brown Creeper Spiraling up Knee Socks
1978: Sharing Hooded Mergansers with a Policeman
1978: Black Terns Establishing My Authority over Sixth Graders
1978: Virginia Rails Make Me Look Smarter at AOU Field Trip.
1978: Little Spinning Phalaropes
1979: Love and Magic: Ludwig the Blue Jay. Or listen to the podcast.
1979: “Just Birds”? Trumpeter Swans at Yellowstone
1980: The Best AND the Worst Bird Ever: My Lifer Gyrfalcon
1980: “Mrs. E! A Prothonotary Warbler!”
1980: Lame Little Robin
1980: Redemption from Four Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Or listen to the podcast.
1981: Raven with a Gift from Above. Or listen to the podcast.
1981: Singing Winter Wren!
1981: Baby Joey’s First Great Gray Owl (and My Lifer)
1982: Joey and the Las Vegas Great-tailed Grackles. Or listen to the podcast.
1982: Backyard Le Conte’s Sparrows at Grandma’s
1983: Backyard Whip-poor-will when I Was Bedridden!
1985: Katie’s Boo Jays. Or listen to the podcast.
1986: Icarus the Crow
1987: Katie’s Picanick Lunches with a Catbird .
1987: The First Nighthawk I Ever Held in My Hands
1988: Tommy’s Bohemian Waxwing. Or listen to the podcast.
1988: Baby Pine Siskin
1988: Esmerelda the Hummingbird
1988: In the Blink of an Eye: I Owe My Lifer Mangrove Cuckoo to Swearing Gnatcatchers
1989: Katie and the Glowing American Redstarts
1990: Calpurnia the Raven
1990: Baby Red-eyed Vireos
1990: Vindication at Hawk Ridge Thanks to an Osprey
1990: Tommy Starts His Lifelist with Roger Tory Peterson’s Final Lifer: Fork-tailed Flycatcher
1991: Close Encounter of the Jalapeño Pepper Kind Thanks to a Black-throated Gray Warbler
1991: Wichita Mountains Welcome Chuck Wagon: Chuck-will’s-widows.
1991: Saved by the Refuge Manager: Seeing Black-capped Vireos
1991-1994: Fred the Nighthawk
1991–1997: Sneakers the Blue Jay
1992: Old Faithful Mountain Bluebird
1992: Sharing a Dairy Queen Pie with a Magpie
1992: Yellow-billed Magpie at 65 mph. 1992: Ginger the Nighthawk
1992: The Saw-whet Owl Who Mistook a Puppy for a Mouse
1993: Joey and Mortimer the Starling
1993: Baby Saw-whet Owl
1993: Piggy Sees His First Atlantic Puffins
1994: Tommy’s Razorbills
1994: Learning How to Share from the Homeless: Western Scrub-Jay and White-throated Swifts
1994: The Summer of the Baby Flickers
1994: Making Dave Barry’s Holiday Gift List Thanks to a Nighthawk with Tapeworms
1995–1998: BJ the Blue Jay
1995–1999: Bernice the Barn Owl Who Wasn’t
1995: Vindication via a Five-striped Sparrow. Or listen to the podcast.
1995: Near Death Experience with Barn Owl
1995: After-Death Experience with Burrowing Owls
1995: The Sora in the Living Room
1996: Kowabunga! Spruce Grouse!
1996: Dancing in the Dark: My First Lesser Prairie-Chickens
1997: Sandwich Terns at 60 mph
1997: Geppetto the Pileated Woodpecker. Or listen to the podcast Part I and Part 2.
1999: Piggy’s Florida Scrub-Jays!
2000: My Lifer Iiwi, Perched Next to a House Sparrow.
2000: Family Quest for My First Nene.
2000: White Tern: Too Pooped to Pop? Or listen to the podcast.
2000: Grieving with Monk Parakeets
2001: Childhood Dream Comes True: My First Resplendent Quetzal!
2001: Horned Puffin: The Needle in the Haystack
2002: Failure to Communicate: Antbird vs. Manakin
2002: Baby Brown Thrashers
2004: Great Gray Owl Invasion
2004: Viola the Rufous Hummingbird
2005: Downtown Peregrine Family
2006: Calling in a Barred Owl
2007: Close Encounter of the Bird Poop Kind: Blue-gray Tanager
2007: The Woman Older than Her Guide’s Grandmother Sees a Horned Guan!
2008: Tufted Titmouse: Riding a Raccoon’s Tail
2009-2015: Dad the Great Blue Heron
2011: Angels of Mercy after Russ’s Cancer Surgery: Backyard Evening Grosbeaks
2011: Turning 60 on 11-11-11: California Condors with Russ
2013: Superb Owl Sunday Boreal Owl with Russ
2013: Invisible Ptarmigans
2013: Spending a Day with One Black-capped Vireo
2013: The Mexican Chickadee Who Took Pity on Me. Or listen to the podcast.
2013: The Cow Who Gave Me My Big Year Pacific Golden-Plovers
2014–2015: Deformed Chickadee Brings It Off!
2014: Finally! Spruce Grouse in Wisconsin
2016: Red-bellied Woodpeckers Nesting in My Driveway!
2016: Spotting Orange Sherbet in the Gloom: Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks!
2016: A Dream Come True: Seeing the Most Adorable Bird in the Universe in Cuba!
2016:Cubbies Win World Series and a Boreal Owl Celebrates with Me!
2017: Spending a Dark Day with an Immigrant: Pink-footed Goose
2017: Lewis’s Woodpecker in Wisconsin!
2017: Thicket Antpitta: Secretive Skulker
2018: The Photogenic Pileated Woodpecker. Or listen to the podcast.