Avid birder David Lindquist enjoys observing bird behavior everyday at his Cary, North Carolina home. Lindquist has been bird watching for more than 17 years, both in the field and in his own backyard, which is literally a sanctuary where birds (and a few uninvited guests) enjoy a well-stocked buffet of assorted goodies year 'round.

Lindquist decided to incorporate new methods (besides his own eyes and ears) and technology that would allow him to share his birding experiences with others. In December 2007, he began incorporating the use of a Wingscapes BirdCam, and later in February 2009, he started the Cary BirdCam blog diary of observations and photographs.

Since bird watching is a regular part of his day, he now has the tools to help bird enthusiasts across the globe start their day off right by enjoying nature through the "eyes" and "ears" of his own backyard. Because he dedicates a lot of his time to provide an enormous amount of information and photographs, we at Wingscapes took the opportunity to interview David and find out more about his passion and how he uses new technology for an age-old pastime.

Q:  What or who prompted you to become interested in birding 17 years ago? Do/did you have a mentor/s? Favorite ornithologist?

DL: Actually I grew up with bird watching.  My parents kept feeders out and were keenly interested in the birds which visited our Connecticut home. And we had excellent reference books in our family library, including Pearson et al’s Birds of America which I perused frequently.  Unfortunately I became disconnected from bird watching during my college and career-forming years, and so I went through a reawakening of interest not long after I moved to Cary in the early Nineties.  One could say that I “studied” with Mark Johns, who is the resident naturalist at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary and who is well known among North Carolina birders. He is an excellent teacher especially in the “birding by ear” school.  I still enroll in bird walks with Mark for continuing education.

Q: What are some of your favorite resources/field guides and what makes them important to you?

DL: I think I own all of the major field guides (I have 13 of them) but I am an old Peterson Guides guy so that’s the one that gets the most use; it has always had those qualities I prize most on the trail (portability, durability, and well identified field marks.) But I have immense respect for the Sibley, Stokes, Kaufman, and National Geographic guides, so they come with me in the car when I go out in the field, and they and others are available for consultation at “base camp.”

Q: Besides your own backyard, where are some of the best spots to go birding in your area?

DL: I spend a fair amount of time at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary.  It offers a nice mix of upland forest and riparian zone species. The huge Umstead State Park in Raleigh and next door Carl Schenck Forest (owned by NC State University) are outstanding locations as well.  I prefer Lake Wheeler in Raleigh for viewing water birds, in season. Farther out, and schedule permitting, I like to visit Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve near Fort Bragg, Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge near the coast, and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Hatteras. There are many sweet spots in our metro area and just beyond it, but my schedule is busy enough that I don’t get nearly enough time in the field.  

Q:  Before you started using the Wingscapes BirdCam, what equipment were you using (besides your own eyes and ears) to document your observations?

DL: The very binoculars I grew up with! Some years ago my father gave me the DeWöhler Kassel 7x50s I remember using as a kid and in spite of their heft I still use them with reverence.

Q:  David, you state in your Cary BirdCam blog that, "[o]ne of the sublime joys in life is when two things you really enjoy come together in one place and time. Can you explain how the two things you enjoy (birding and photography) came together for you? Would you add blogging to that list?

DL: I need to preface this by making clear that I am not a skilled photographer.  But I enjoy taking pictures and appreciate the art of making a good composition. Until the Wingscapes BirdCam came along my expectation of capturing images of birds with my skills and resources was about zero. Now I can capture and then study close up images and appreciate what’s going on when I am locked down at a desk all day. That’s happiness!

Q:  Will you give us a rundown of the equipment and resources you have and what you use them for?

DL:  In the field, I travel very light.  I carry binoculars, a water bottle, a notebook, a digital camera, any necessary maps of the site, and a field guide, and whatever extra clothing is needed given the weather.  At home I have a few more toys. Apart from the BirdCam and mounting hardware, I am working on getting a wireless transmission of images going via an Eye-Fi card, and of course I have the computer with its requisite compliment of image editing software and hard disk space for thousands of photos! I’ve also got a fairly strong bird reference library with something like forty or so texts and references.

Q:  As an avid birder and BirdCam enthusiast, can you explain some of your strategies for setting up your camera?

DL: I’m guided mostly by hunches and how the mood hits me on a given day. Each morning I think about either what feeder or location I have not checked in on lately or of what species I might want photos. Sometimes I might be curious what might be going on at a particular location especially if food consumption changes noticeably. I’m insatiably curious about the activities in the entire yard!

Q:  Where do you use your BirdCam most? How long do you leave it set up in a particular place?

DL: I am averaging about a quarter (25%) of my BirdCam time on our suet baskets. They’ve proven very productive for species diversity over time. According to my log book my hummingbird feeders were next most targeted with 16% of BirdCam days. More broadly feeders have gotten about 6 days in every 7 I photographed, the remainder being bird baths, berry bushes, nest boxes, and other places. Once I target the BirdCam I do like to leave it in place for two to three days, unless I get distracted by a better idea or if the target was unproductive.  If I develop an obsession or if I am getting especially interesting results the BirdCam will stay in one position for a lot longer. Over the winter I had one run of 18 consecutive days at my peanut butter feeder!

Q:  What are some of your favorite features of the camera and how do they enhance your birding experience? You also mention you are bent on using every feature. Have you found a use for all of them?

DL: There are several features which definitely sizzle: I think for me that would include the laser sight (for perfect aim) and the video mode (as subject matter for homemade films.) But I am still most delighted with and most appreciate the “plain vanilla” Automatic Mode. The whole point of my purchasing the BirdCam product was to get those hitherto unobtainable photographs. But I continue my exploration of the entire feature set and I have almost found a good use for everything, especially now that I recently realized a fabulous use for Time Lapse that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Q: What is on your wish list, technical or otherwise, to enhance your birding experiences?

DL:  I really need to get a proper spotting scope one of these days! (Other spending priorities always come up.) And I am contemplating acquiring a second BirdCam that I can dedicate to monitoring a nest box over a long period of time so as not to disturb the birds using the box.

Q:  What kind and how many feeders (seasonal and year 'round) do you have set up?

DL: I am up to twenty two feeders, although I don’t operate all of them all year round. We have two tube feeders (safflower), three platforms (various seed), two suet baskets, a “woodpecker-style” suet feeder, two “anti-squirrel” sunflower mesh tubes, two nyjer seed feeders, four hummingbird feeders, two peanut/peanut piece feeders, a peanut butter feeder, two larger capacity feeders (mostly safflower but sometimes sunflower), and a window box. We also have two bird baths---ground level and pedestal. The four hummingbird feeders come down in the fall and I don’t stock the two peanut product feeders in the summer. Mind you, this collection has been building for a long time!

Q:  You talk about using a different kind of food as a strategy in dealing with unwanted visitors (i.e., squirrels), can you tell us more about this and how your efforts have succeeded?  What other strategies are you trying and how are they working for you?

DL:  My strategies are all based on discouraging the “marginal” squirrels: I don’t like seeing eight or more of them out there (which point I reached last year,) but I can live with the one or two who are resident on the property and are going to patrol the feeders every day regardless whatever I do. I found that safflower seed keeps most of the seed eating birds but is avoided by squirrels. The same was true for “hot pepper” suet. I tried using cayenne pepper powders and they don’t work really well except on peanut pieces. I am not well positioned to effectively use baffles or “squirrel proof” feeders, but I haven’t heard of a real success story on those in any case.

Q:  You mention that Orioles (Baltimore Orioles or Orchard Orioles) are your "grail bird". What makes them so special? Are there other species you might enjoy finding while on your Oriole quest?

DL:   The only very special reason for my interest in Orioles: they’re visually quite attractive and are among the birds in this area I could hope to see and haven’t. But the property just works against me on this one.  However, I do appreciate any surprises that come my way, and if, say, an Indigo Bunting, or Blue Grosbeak, or any number of summer woodland Warblers ever condescended to visit my feeders, I would be just as thrilled.

Q:  What is your favorite bird song and why?

DL:  I am absolutely mesmerized by the song of the Wood Thrush. It has a lovely fluty quality that sounds otherworldly when heard in the deep woods.

Q:   If you could go birding anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?

DL:  This is a difficult question, especially as my global travels have been so limited! But as I have always enjoyed “coastal birding” I think, if my insides can handle the rougher seas, I would be most interested in the coastal and insular areas of the North Atlantic basin familiar to my Norse forebears: Maritime Canada, Greenland, etc.  I’ve never seen anything quite like these places.

Q:  What is one of the most important lessons that birding has taught you?

DL: A lesson I am still learning: “appreciate the moment.” When I was much younger I was impatient to see the birds of my choosing at the time of my choosing. I hope I am developing the wisdom to be deeply appreciative for what the moment provides.  It’s the kind of seasoning that allows one to get really excited by and interested in a Robin or a Chickadee every day.

Q:  What advice would you give to a beginner?

DL:  First, be comfortable with the idea that learning birds takes time and that someone will always know more than you do.  In fact, use that fact to your advantage---spend time with people who know the birds, and learn one or two at each outing from them by sight and song. Second, buy a good field guide and pore over it come to understand what birds are in what habitats and at what seasons.  Third, start feeders with sunflower seed and suet.  These deliver the most birds for the money.  And fourth: buy a BirdCam!  What a wonderful learning tool!

Q:  Is there a question I haven't asked that you would like to add?

DL:  Sure, “What has been your favorite BirdCam moment?” and that would be after I posted a photo of a Hermit Thrush which was using one of our suet baskets.  John Riutta commented to the photo that I had obtained the first image of a Hermit Thrush on a suet feeder he’d seen.  I thought, “Wow! I am actually contributing to the knowledge base with this thing!” About that point in time I saw myself a little more as a researcher of birds and a lot less as a guy just pointing a camera at his backyard feeders.

Thank you, David, for taking the time to answer our questions. With so much information and photographs posted daily, your work in this field is an awe-inspiring contribution to the world of bird bird watching that allows all bird enthusiasts to enjoy. We wish you years of success in your endeavors (and an Oriole or two)!