About Me

Born and raised in Indiana, I worked as a naturalist in Kansas and Ohio before settling in Oregon. I’m a freelance writer, author of Birding Oregon, and lead classes and workshops.

Some of my philosophies of birding include:

Listing: I keep lists of the ABA area, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, and the co-housing community where I live. Every trip holds the hope of a new twitch. However, at the end of day, a list doesn’t really mean much. I try to be pretty zen about my birding. (see “Zen BirdingBirding, September 2006) Vagrants and long lists are fun. But no bird seen in the past, no matter how rare or beautiful, is half as interesting as the bird in front of you right now.

Chasing: As a general rule, my birding time has to be equal to or greater than my travel time. So if a rarity is reported within an hour and a half’s drive from home, and it is in a location that offers some good birding in addition, I may give chase. If the bird is farther away than that, I usually wait for another opportunity to see that species.

Favorite non-Oregon birding site: Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas. This is one of the best spots in the country for migrant shorebirds. Other highlights include grassland sparrows, rails, Whooping Cranes, and waterfowl.

Best bird missed while in the bathroom: A flock of Whooping Cranes, over my back yard in Kansas. It never fails. You’re gone for two minutes and something great shows up. That’s why I never use the bathroom on pelagic trips.

Veganism: Aside from the environmental and ethical reasons to avoid the products of animal agriculture, it seems odd to “Ooh” and “Ah” over a Lesser Sand-Plover or a Vermilion Flycatcher, and then dismember and eat a chicken or a turkey. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”

I live in Portland, OR, with my wife, Marsha, our dog, and our ancient cat. I can be reached at rakestraw.john@yahoo.com.