Let me start out with thanking you, the reader, for dropping in on my little piece of cyberspace, and mostly for spending the time to read my ramblings. You’re here, so I hope my thoughts and stories are enough to make that trip worthwhile. Thank you for taking an interest. So without further ado…
I am a birder; see also twitcher, lister, and obsessive-compulsive watcher of the avian species. If you look up these words in the dictionary, the entry should make mention of binoculars, camera equipment, and perhaps a few words on painstaking note-taking and cross-referencing countless field guides, religiously waking up at 4am on Saturdays in May (because you gotta get out there early if you want to get the “good birds”), and spending romantic getaways with the wife knee-deep in some nameless marsh, being sucked dry by prehistoric pterodactyl-skeeters, all for the hopes of maybe catching a glimpse of some small bird that no one’s ever even heard of.
A friend of mine once asked me how I got into birding, because, as he so eloquently put it:
I haven’t known you for very long, but you strike me as having an obsessive personality, and you were just waiting for something to obsess about. No offense.
He wasn’t far off. The story of my “coming-of-age” in the birding world came about quite by accident, as these things tend to do, when I immigrated to Canada from my home in the United States, after getting married to my beautiful, not to mention endlessly patient and forgiving, wife, to whom this blog is dedicated. Being a new immigrant, I was not allowed to work for at least one year, so I had a lot of time on my hands to be a “house-husband.” When I was done doing all the housework, I still had six hours left in the day before Melanie came home from work, so I decided to get out and explore my new environment. This led me to spending days at the Hog’s Back Park, not far from our apartment in the south end of Ottawa, Ontario. It was here that, as my friend put it, I found “something to obsess about,” and the rest is history, as they say.
That fateful event, nothing more dramatic than a black-capped chickadee landing on my outstretched hand looking for a freebie of black oil sunflower seeds, has put me on a new life trajectory that I never imagined for myself. I’ve had the great fortune to meet and learn from some amazing people out in the field, and to them I am eternally grateful for sharing their wisdom and experience with me. This obsession has led me to the deep boreal forests of New Brunswick, to the remote breeding grounds of the Bicknell’s thrush. It’s taken me to the coasts of Rhode Island, trekking through the wetlands on the search for saltmarsh sparrows. It brought me back to my hometown in northeastern Pennsylvania, where I worked to monitor the golden-winged warbler population in the Poconos. I’ve learned the bird bander’s trade, conducted numerous point-count surveys and nest monitoring activities, and had the opportunity to share these experiences with the general public through leading public outings and seminars with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club. I hold the fifth recorded sighting of Say’s Phoebe in Rhode Island (2011), and was able to witness Ontario’s first record of Thick-billed Kingbird, and Ottawa’s first record of Ivory Gull (both in 2012).
In 2013, having basically checked off the majority of the East Coast’s species (and some of the West’s), I took the next logical step in my obsession and headed off to greener pastures, moving to South Korea with my wife to teach English as a native speaker. Teaching English was Melanie’s dream, and having put up with me running all over the map for the past three years, chasing birds and taking on different contracts all over eastern North America, she deserved her chance to “live the dream.” The fact that I would be dropped into a new continent, with literally hundreds of new species at my fingertips, played no part at all in my decision to go along. So this blog is a sort of journal of this experience. I hope to give detailed accounts and descriptions of the various sites and locations that I travel to while roaming the Korean countryside, especially since it’s hard to find this kind of information online, at least in English anyway.
So, if I haven’t scared you off yet, please come along on an adventure with me…