The seventh in a series of occasional profiles of birdwatchers who are from or spend a lot of time in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Mary Birdsong and her husband, Mike Plyler. HANRAHAN/Erie Times-News file photo
Family: Married to Mike Plyler, auxiliary mom to two wonderful daughters. Owned by two cats, Izadora and Sam.
Lives in: Erie
College degree: BA in History, MA in Art History
Profession: Freelance writer, artist and development professional.
Originally from: Erie (left, explored the world, came back).
I got into birding …: My husband started birding when we were dating.
Spark bird: Cedar waxwing.
Favorite birds: All the shorebirds.
Nemesis bird: Right now, purple sandpiper. There will be others!
Favorite places to bird in northwestern Pennsylvania: Presque Isle State Park, Scott Park, my backyard or anywhere there are a few good birds.
Strangest place I’ve gone birding: I saw my first Laughing Gull on top of the pile at the landfill, while on a tour.
Rarest bird I’ve seen: Here, a Kirtland’s Warbler. In Costa Rica, a three-wattled bell bird.
Usual birding partners: My husband, Michele Franz, Shawn Collins, or anybody who wants to go!
Birding gear and equipment I take everywhere: My binoculars, scope and iPhone.
Favorite birding field guide or app: Sibley and Peterson in the field. At home, The Shorebird Guide and other specialty guides for research and learning.
What I like most about birding: Seeing a new bird and just being out there.
The best birdwatching day I’ve ever had: Sitting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Alaska watching thousands of shore birds. I want to go back to that very spot again someday, now that I have better optics and more experience.
The worst birding day I’ve ever had: Well, there really aren’t any really bad birding days, but recently Mike and I went looking for the purple sandpiper at Gull Point twice and didn’t see it. And I lost my best gloves.
Dream birding destination: Too many to name here. Anywhere there are cool birds, and that is just about anywhere.
Best birding advice you ever got: Look at the bird while its there, you can look at your field guide later. And, describe out loud or to yourself what field marks on the bird you are seeing.
Your advice to beginning birders: Enjoy yourself and don’t worry about lists.
Should a sighting be counted if you’ve only heard an identifiable bird call but not seen the bird itself? Yes. But it’s always a more fulfilling experience to see the bird as well.
Do you keep a life list? Yes, but I don’t keep a running total in my head. About once a year Mike and I count just to see how many we have.
Do you approve of competitions such as a Big Year or Big Day? Sure, why not?
Previous entries in the NWPA Outdoors Birder Bio series:
No. 1: Shawn Collins
No. 2: Bonnie Ginader
No. 3: Michele Rundquist-Franz
No. 4: Lee Ann Reiners
No. 5: Julie Dell
No. 6: Lisa Danko
Interested in participating in the Birder Bio profiles series? It’s easy and free. Just e-mail email@example.com for details.