The fourth in a series of occasional profiles of birdwatchers who are from or spend a lot of time in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Lee Ann Reiners, Field trip director, Presque Isle Audubon Society
Lives in: Tidioute, Warren County, and Leesburg, Fla.
Profession: Retired library assistant, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Originally from: Pittsburgh
I got into birding …: I don’t remember how old I was. My parents gave my brother and me a little Herbert Zim bird field guide and we used it till it fell apart. Although we lived in Pittsburgh, we had a summer cottage near Cambridge Springs in Crawford County. My brother and I roamed the woods and fields exploring all sorts of habitats and their wildlife. When I was 20, I began birding with a nature group and learned about keeping lists.
Spark birds: All birds fascinated me, so I really can’t single out that one special bird that actually sparked my interest. Possibly cagebirds, parakeets and canaries, which my grandmother raised and I loved to play with, and the feeder birds in our back yard.
Nemesis bird: Currently, LeConte’s Sparrow. Plus I’d love to see an ivory-billed woodpecker if there are still any alive. I got to hold one in my hand – it was Roger Tory Peterson’s from his skins collection. Unfortunately, long deceased.)
Favorite place(s) to bird in northwestern Pennsylvania: Land o’ Lakes state game lands near Cambridge Springs; Tidioute Bird Trail; and while canoeing on French Creek, Conneaut Marsh and the Allegheny River.
Strangest place I’ve gone birding: In Trinidad we were taken to a cave where Oilbirds lived. They sleep in the dark cave during the day and come out at night. We were allowed into the cave one person at a time to catch a glimpse of the roosting birds and take a picture by flashlight.
Usual birding partner: My husband, Charles Houpt
Birding gear and equipment I take everywhere: 15×50 Canon IS binoculars; various Canon cameras and lenses; Sibley Field Guide to Birds; monopod walking stick; iPod for ID’ing some of the bird calls I might hear.
Favorite birding field guide or app: Sibley’s
What I like most about birding: The birds, of course! I can sit and watch a chickadee for hours on end. I love to settle in beside a babbling brook and watch whatever flies into my view. Better than jelly donuts!
The best birdwatching day I’ve ever had: A day at Hummingbird Lodge in Ecuador in March 2012 when I actually reached out and touched a hummingbird on its soft little tummy.
The worst birding day I’ve ever had: I am a first responder for Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, which means I can transport injured wildlife to the center. Last September I got a call to transport a Bald Eagle from Althom in Warren County to the center. En route I could hear its labored breathing and low moans of pain. That is something I will never forget – the sounds of pain from that magnificent bird. He was showing signs of lead poisoning and a blood test was run. His lead level was so high that it was off the meter. The pain was caused by the lead eating away his internal organs. I watched this bird die. Eagles are opportunistic feeders and will eat already-dead animals they might find. If the animal is killed by lead ammunition, the eagle will ingest the lead, which travels rapidly into their bloodstream. (More information can be seen at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/lead_poisoning/ & http://www.tamarackwildlife.org/2011/12/bald-eagles-and-lead-poisoning.html )
Dream birding destination: I’ve been to my dream destinations, but would love to go back to Hawai’i to see what I missed the first time, when I was traveling with a non-birder and missed a lot.
Best birding advice you ever got: It was actually canoeing advice that I applied to birding: find the best paddler as you enter the whitewater and follow him, do what he does. With birding, it’s pick out the best birder in the group and stick close by!
Your advice to beginning birders: Join the Audubon Society and attend meetings and field trips so you can learn as you go. And learn birding etiquette, so you won’t be disturbing the birds in their habitat, especially during breeding season.
Should a sighting be counted if you’ve only heard an identifiable bird call but not seen the bird itself? I mark it down as a “heard bird,” but don’t count it on my list till I’ve seen one.
Do you keep a life list? Yes, I do. My current total is 1,083, and I passed the 1,000 mark last month in Ecuador — my husband presented me with a “1,000” applique to sew onto my birding hat! (He also passed 1,000 on that trip!)
Do you approve of the idea of competitions such as a Big Year or Big Day? Yes, because info gathered from those events can be used for statistics in research. And they are fun, as long as the participants aren’t interfering with the natural routine of the birds. (Plus, the Big Year competition inspired a fun movie! We in Presque Isle Audubon Society made the opening night in Erie one of our field trips and we went to it as a group.)
Etc: I post many of my photos to http://www.flickr.com/photos/leeann-charlie/sets/
Previous entries in the Birder Bio series:
No. 1: Shawn Collins
No. 2: Bonnie Ginader
No. 3: Michele Rundquist-Franz
Interested in participating in the Birder Bio profiles series? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.