Worm-eating Warbler on Dec 28, 2014, 115th CBC | Photo by Don Sterba

Worm-eating Warbler on Dec 28, 2014, 115th CBC | Photo by Don Sterba

My interest in nature was instilled very early, as I grew up surrounded by small streams, woodlots and resident critters on my father’s 133-acre dairy farm in southwestern Wisconsin. Some of my very earliest bird-related memories include (1) flushing a covey of recently hatched Ruffed Grouse frantically scrambling after their worried mother, (2) hearing the curiously loud calls of resident Ovenbirds, (3) listening to summertime Whippoorwills calling faintly in the distance at dusk, and, (4) under ultra-dark nighttime skies crowned by the Milky Way’s steady glow, hearing the odd whinnying of Eastern Screech Owls and eerie screams of juvenile Great Horned Owls. At the time, such observations were nothing special to me; after all, didn’t most people have similar sights and sounds in their backyards?

On a memorable autumn day in the 1960’s, I first used binoculars to look at birds in my father’s woods, and I was awestruck by the sudden sight of a flock (!!!) of Golden-winged Warblers. I still recall the exact spot: Lat-Lon = 43.734157, -90.366467 (from Google Map). That started a quest for finding other colorful migrants, and it wasn’t long before I started keeping track of my “new” species in a Golden Field Guide (Robbins et al.).

None of my rural WI acquaintances were at all interested in birds other than as game quarry, and I met my first genuine birders while away from home, in Pasadena. On a bulletin board I saw a brief notice for a pelagic trip out of San Diego, and after looking up “pelagic”, I signed up. On that trip I met Shum Suffel and many others, so then my serious birding finally began.

Photography became more important to me during my Peace Corps years in Kenya, East Africa, where I took about as many film photos of game park animals as I did of birds (among my favorites were Lilac-breasted Roller and Blue-shouldered Robin-chat). I now carry a digital camera mainly to record birds I find that may require more reliable documentation than I can store in my limited organic memory.

I took the photo of a Worm-eating Warbler on Dec 28, 2014, during last year's LA CBC, using a Canon EOS 7D camera with a Canon EF 100-400mm IS lens. This is only the 2nd time that a WEWA has been recorded on the LA count.

Don Sterba
Culver City

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