May 10th is a special day for me. It is the birthday of one my biggest birding influences, my dad. He always supported my love of birds since I was a child. He bought me my first two pairs of binoculars to help me get better views of birds. He helped me to buy my first film and digital cameras and grow my passion for birds through photography. He would buy me bird books to help me learn more about birds. And he would always kept our bird feeders stocked, even in the middle of winter in Western New York when we would have several feet of snow on the ground, just to keep birds near our house. He was always there to support me.
When I moved out to Utah, he offered to come along and how could I refuse him. He didn't even mind when we made several birding stops along the way including stops to try just for a pair of sparrows: Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Illinois (successful) and LeConte's Sparrow in Kansas (unsuccessful) and also stop at Cheyenne Bottoms in Kansas as well. He was there to share in my first birding experiences in Utah, whether it was seeing a Black-billed Magpie as our first Utah bird or going to the Great Salt Lake Marina and looking at Eared Grebes and the other birds there.
It also happens that his birthday falls on one of the best migration days every spring. Back in Rochester, I could expect to see almost 20 species of warblers and have a 100 total species in just a morning of birding. Out here, May 10th is right in the middle of migration as well and although I would be lucky to get half as many warblers, 100 species is still possible on that day.
When I'm in St George for his birthday this year, even though we are 2000 miles apart, we will probably get to share a genus of birds: nighthawks. He will be attending a Rochester Red Wings baseball game (yes our minor league team has a bird name) and be able to see Common Nighthawks flying through the stadium lights going after the insects attracted to them. I will be listening for another nighthawk, the Lesser, when I am down on the Beaver Dam Slope.
So I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my father Jeff, even if I can't be there in person, and to thank him again for everything and for nurturing my love of birds since I was a child. If not for him I wouldn't love birds the same way as I do now and I wouldn't be out here in Utah. I am lucky to have such a great dad!