How did you get started in birding? When I was a teen-ager I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak—in breeding plumage, it’s absolutely gorgeous—and I was hooked. Birds fascinated me—their short lifespan, how important their environment is, and how some species are so site-specific they can’t live anywhere else, while others adapt to garbage cans behind KFC.
What makes birding in Sarasota unique? Florida birds are conducive to close-up photography. The birds in the wetlands and beaches are so inured to human contact that they’re not skittish like birds elsewhere. The other great thing is the varied habitats. You go from Gulf Coast beaches to woodlands to dry grass prairies in an hour or two.
How’s business? My busiest time is from January through the end of April. After May it gets way too hot. About half of my clients are foreign, mostly people from England and Canada, and believe it or not, a lot of photographers from India. I get a lot of serious birders from Indiana and Ohio—the Amish are very good birders.
How important is patience? There’s a fork-tailed fly catcher up near Cockroach Bay right now. It’s a rare South American bird that shows up every three or four years in Florida. It’s not always in the exact same spot, but if you wait long enough it usually returns. There were birders there who waited five minutes, then got frustrated and left. The people who waited two or three hours were rewarded.
What’s your guiding philosophy? Even though I’m a bird watcher, I get a kick out of watching caterpillars, moths and bugs, and I realize it’s all connected. My hope is that when I take people out I have imbued in them a sense of where they are and how fragile it is, how important it is to protect it.