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Non-self portrait.
Photo by LMK.

. . . Your Host
I am a carbon-based life form with near-perfect dentition, a mild addiction to chocolate, and a wide variety of interests. These include, but are not limited to, seeing the world and everything in it, playing and listening to music, photography, reading, and watching birds.

In 1993 I shifted from a casual birdwatcher to a full-blown birder. I chased, I listed, I studied and researched birds, their behaviors and interactions with their natural surroundings. Every bit of travel became, in essence, a birding trip. Now, as a husband and father, I’m more focused on life on our hilltop in the Southern Tier of New York.  My passion for the natural world hasn’t faded. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve become more engaged every time I experience the outdoors, especially when taking it all in through the eyes of my daughter.  We spend a lot of time restructuring our yard with native plants while removing the exotics, then enjoying how the wildlife take advantage of the fruits of our labor.  I’m also spending more and more time capturing those moments through my camera lens.

If I must be further pigeon-holed, here’s what you need to know. I’m a husband, father, son, brother, and uncle; a birder and naturalist; a wannabe photographer, writer and musician. During the work day I’m an ornithologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where I joined the Citizen Science department in 2000. My first position was with The Birdhouse Network, then as the project leader to develop a new citizen science program that became known as eBird.

In 2005 I moved into the Conservation Science program to assist in the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I coordinated and participated in the analysis of acoustic recordings made during the search. Currently I continue to use acoustic technologies to study migration, animal behavior, and to census hard-to-detect species (but easier to detect than Ivory-bills!).

And yes, I do know how lucky I am!

. . . This Blog

A few years ago, as I was drifting off to sleep, a spark lit up some darkened corner of my brain. Some synapse fired unexpectedly, illuminating the fact that I love storytelling and writing, along with travel, nature-watching, and birding. The realization hit that I’ve had some amazing experiences, but they’re sequestered as slowly fading memories. They should really be archived somewhere so, hopefully, I’ll be able to re-live those times when I’m in the eventual, post-traveling “golden years.”  I intend to put that off as long as possible, of course.

I started this blog because I wasn’t keeping a written journal anywhere else.  The first iteration was a family blog where we highlighted what Reina, our then-newborn daughter, was up to. Apparently I messed up the balance between “new baby” and “another bird story” one too many times so, like those CSI or Law & Order shows, this blog quickly spun off from that one.  Same stories, slightly different angle, new cast.

. . . The Name

“Feathers and Flowers” comes from Reina and her insatiable desire to collect things. One afternoon, upon returning from an exploration of our property, she held a Wild Turkey feather in one hand, a knapweed flower in the other, and an ear-to-ear smile on her face. She scaled the steps, found Donna in the kitchen, and blurted, “We got them both! We got the feather and the flower!”

I hadn’t realized we were searching for anything specific, and obviously she didn’t mean it that way (she was barely three at the time). But she knew enough to realize those two items cover the primary interests around our household, my wife is the botanist and I’m the ornithologist. Of course, feathers and flowers generally intermingle quite nicely in nature, considering we spend summers watching hummingbirds feed from the coneflowers and bee balm outside our living room window. Of course, there are other interactions that would work.  Birds eating fruits and dispersing the seeds, birds eating the insects that feed on plants,  birds collecting plant parts to build nests . . . you get the point.

But here’s mine: Reina didn’t pick up an insect, fruit, or seed, at least not on that trip.  So here we are.

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