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This Birder Likes to Travel

As part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Bird the Preserves initiative, we are featuring one Birder of the Week September through October to highlight the unique experiences and diversity of the birding community. To learn more about birding or to attend an upcoming bird walk, visit our Birding Page.

Name: Henry Griffin
Age: 16
Hometown/neighborhood: Oak Park, IL
Profession: Currently a junior in high school
Number of years birding: 4

Why did you start birding?

My “spark bird,” a bird that peaks many passionate birders’ interests for the first time, was a Cooper’s Hawk that flew into my backyard in January or February 2012. The identification process captivated me and I was hooked.

What was your first birding experience?

My first “birding” experience I can vividly remember was visiting Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary with my parents in May 2012. We happened to visit on one of the best days of the year and I was absolutely floored by the brilliant array of warblers and other migrant songbirds winging and singing their way through the bird sanctuary. I remember getting nearly 100 species in one morning, which was astounding for me (and still is!).

What is your favorite bird species and why?

Resplendent Quetzal because I had been hoping to see this long-tailed, emerald-green species for years and finally saw six in one day in Costa Rica when I visited there in July 2015!

What species do you still want to see and haven’t spotted yet?

Boreal Chickadee, it is somewhat of a nemesis bird for me even though I have visited its typical range up north many times.

What is your favorite place(s) in the Forest Preserves of Cook County to bird?

Orland Grassland is hands-down my favorite place to bird in Cook County; however, closer to home, Thatcher Woods can be quite good for songbirds in migration. Good places to bird during the breeding season in summer are the Palos Preserves comprised of Cap Sauers HoldingSwallow Cliff and McClaughry Springs.

What is the most helpful tool you use as a birder?

Nikon Coolpix P600 camera, I never use binoculars and I use this camera’s great zoom capabilities to view and document as many birds I find in the field as possible.

How early or late have you gotten up/stayed up to go birding?

The earliest I have woken up to go birding is 1:35 am just this August on a “big day” out in Idaho when three other birders and I attempted to see the greatest number of birds possible in one day. I can’t recall the latest I have stayed up birding, probably close to 1 am because of owling.

Birders often brave the elements to see birds, have there been any extreme weather conditions that you have birded in?

In January 2015 I birded in -10 degree temperatures to see owls and winter finches at the Sax- Zim Bog in northern Minnesota. My toes have never been colder my entire life.

How far have you traveled to go birding?

I have traveled across 14 countries on five continents to go birding, mainly during my eighth grade year which was my final year of homeschooling, when my family and I traveled around the world.

What is the most unexpected thing you have seen while birding?

A few things that come to mind include seeing a killer whale surface on the ocean while on a pelagic birding trip off the coast of New Zealand, a snake that I nearly stepped on while looking for Kirtland’s Warblers in the Bahamas, and rounding a bend on a trail in Idaho and coming face-to-face with a herd of elk.

What is the most important lesson you have learned through birding?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself, because birders can be viewed as “oddballs” by the general public, although we are certainly not, and I will not apologize for being a birder.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Support for the Bird the Preserves initiative was generously provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through Chicago Wilderness.