William Justus Raup
I was born in a snowstorm on February 9, 1981. It may be the reason why I love cold weather and snow so much.
I spent my pre-walking years on my mothers back as she hiked and learned bird watching with the Alan Devoe Bird Club in Columbia County, New York. It soon became obvious that birds were going to be my thing, even recieving some published press of my birdwatching abilities by the age of 19 months.
In 1984 my family and I moved to Coeymans Hollow in Southern Albany County in New York. Here my love for birds continued to grow as the woods around our historic school house were filled with Thrushes, Tanagers, Chickadees, Pileated Woodpeckers and Great-Horned Owls. I don’t really remember any unhappy moments during the six years we lived there.
In 1990 my parents once again did the unthinkable, they moved again, this time a few miles away to the Village of Ravena. I was devastated and have never forgiven them (and never will either!). But all was not lost. Despite having a very tiny back yard (as opposed to woods) I was still able to set up a really good feeding station and started to rack up a pretty good list.
On December 28, 1993 I was watching the feeders. Common Redpolls were becoming widely reported and I didn’t want to miss it if one came to our feeder. This infamous morning I saw a small streaked bird flit down to our thistle feeder, it had the black face and red cap, a Redpoll to be sure! I called my mother over and she and I looked at the bird. There was no doubt it was a Redpoll, but something didn’t look right about it. We consulted our field guides and the bird we were watching looked just like the Hoary Redpoll pictures we were looking at. I called the local bird line and left my report. It wasn’t long before I got a phone call back, infact several. Frank M. and Rich G. did a fine job of trying to talk us out of what we saw. They won, because I didn’t continue the fight. But I was frustrated that I wasn’t being believed. So I vowed to become a better bird watcher. The rest of that winter was spectacular, huge flocks of Redpolls stayed until April at time reaching near 100 birds. Pine Siskins were steady and from Mid April to Mid May we had one of the last flocks of Evening Grosbeaks at our feeder with nearly a dozen daily through that time.
After that ‘bird’, Hoary Redpoll became my avatar. Everything bird related I do, I owe to Hoary Redpolls. For the rest of the years I lived in Ravena I would ride my bike after school and bird the areas behind St. Patrick’s Church (I even got them to put bird houses up) and the PB Coeymans Elementary School, down to Coeymans Landing. At the time Coeymans Landing was nearly the only place in Albany County where one could find both Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Wren, both of which are now rather common through the entire area, but for years they were mine.
College rolled around and bird watching took a backseat for, uh, other things. It was my girlfriend (later my wife) at the time Danika who got me back into bird watching.
Yet by the time she got me back into birding, I had been out of the loop for a few years. I was rusty, but she got bitten by the bug and I developed a full blown case. We started birding constantly, I discovered the internet (Which was new to me, I was a late bloomer in that aspect) had all sorts of good information (and continues with this blog, I might add). I started connecting with the same people who didn’t believe me all those years ago. This time I started to find good birds and then other people saw the same birds thus raising my credibility.
Since that time I have crossed the State, region, Country and Atlantic in search of birds. Often with my wife who took as many pictures as she could, we have developed quite a record of our birding adventures. In 2006 I was asked by Corey Finger to help out on a Century Run, needless to say we hit it off pretty well as we each feed the other’s birding addiction. I don’t know how many miles we have logged, but it is a lot. We must have made a good name for ourselves for when we are out birding and introduce ourselves to people, the usual response is “Yeah, I’ve heard of you.’ Not sure if that is a good thing or bad, but as long as there are birds, I will be out there.
Danika M Kapusta Raup
Well since Ill be helping with the blog now Ill put a snip-it in about me too. I was born May 1980 in a birthing house in Columbia Co. NY. Its Hippie for “some one fixed up their shed so we can pop out our babies natural like”. My moms family is Irish and my dads family is Slovakian. We all lived with my fathers parents on the old Whitbeck horse farm in Coeymans Hollow Albany Co. We had a small farm with lots of gardens for canning (which I no longer remember how to do) and cows, sheep, chickens, for well what their usually for if you get my meaning. The Only animal that got a name was the dog, Poocher. It was a good childhood lots of work and lots of play, all out doors!
Which leads in to the nature bit, couldn’t get enough (except for the black flies and such) we hiked, we camped, we fished. I have two brothers so it was a bit rough and tumble. I tended to find the beauty in nature in the lines and textures of flowers and plants. I am a lover of animals (with allergies) so I made it a game of finding them which as you know is not always an easy thing to do. Then with my fathers camera in hand (swiped from its hiding place)off Id go. He eventually gave it to me or at least I told him he did. That led to a scholarship at SAGE college of Albany and a Fine Arts degree. Will was a friend from High school and we ended up taking trips together (for he didn’t drive at the time and needed a car I think) .
So there it is he loved me for my ride, and then came the birding! Id never heard of birders or twitchers, so wow did I get a crash course. While other couples spent their nights at the movies or doing “other things”, I was drilled on birds, or out owling, or listening to bird songs as I fell asleep. But no matter with my camera in hand I had easily made his hobby my hobby. Now ten years later off we go me driving, Will GPS in hand, and two (most always) beautiful girls drinks and snacks in hand, to far off places still playing that same game of hide and seek. But it was only last month that after finding an ultra sweet bird did I find myself grabbing my binoculars for that brief look instead of my camera. Its official I am a Bird Watcher!