We are ornithologists and herpetologists. Now don’t head for the dictionary, it means we get paid to watch birds and observe reptiles in the wild. How sweet is that? We have done scientific studies from the tropics of south Florida to the lake country of Minnesota, from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas to areas in Montana where we could wave to our Canadian friends, and south to the sand dunes of southern California. We have chosen to make our home in Portal, Arizona. It is a very rural area, but with 14 different species of hummingbirds, tropical bird migrants from Mexico and reptile species found nowhere else in the United States, it seemed like the perfect place for us!
You know you have the right job when you gladly take it home with you. When we are at home, we start our day in front of the sliding glass doors in the family room. In most family rooms the chairs face the middle of the room or the TV, however in our family room the recliners face the bird feeders just outside the sliding glass doors. Now we don’t have just a hopper bird feeder or just a tube bird feeder. Oh no, we have the full array. The stainless steel thistle feeder, the recycled oriole feeder, a suet feeder and one of the Best 1 hummingbird feeders are hung from an H shaped pole we had a friend weld for us. It is placed beside the 4 tier pond and about 5-6 feet from a thicket in our yard. Just in front of these feeders is our tube feeder which is above a recycled platform feeder. To the left of these feeders is the cedar platform feeder. This feeder does not have a feeder above it. Some of the birds are a little skiddish to have something above them when they are eating. Just outside of the doors is a porch with more Best 1 hummingbird feeders hanging from it. The number varies with the time of year.
Now this is just one of four bird feeding stations we have in our yard. Nancy’s second favorite spot is the view from the living room. It also has the hummingbird feeders, a suet feeder, thistle feeders and a tube feeder. Nancy likes to watch the soccer games on TV and still be able to see the birds coming in. Tom gets into the games too much to keep a close eye on the feeders, but Nancy points out any really neat birds and Tom’s hollering at the TV alerts Nancy to watch the replay.
When there are no soccer games on TV, the obvious entertainment would be to go night riding to look for reptiles. We always have a set of snake tongs and snake hooks in all of our vehicles to move snakes off the road. Snake hooks can also be used to goose toads off roads. Remember to always know the federal and state regulations before night riding.
Tom’s second favorite bird feeding spot is just outside the kitchen window. Tom does the dishes and has a window mounted hummingbird feeder that he converts to a seed bird feeder when the hummingbirds leave.
Our office is 40 feet outside the backdoor of our house. The traffic can get bad when the Gambel’s Quail and Scaled Quail are heading for the platform feeder the same time we are going to work! The quail seem to think they have the right-of-way.
Just to the right of the office door is our aquatic turtle pen. Stopping to watch the basking turtles or to count the number of turtles in the stack is a legitimate reason to be late for work. Of course, to make the excuse legitimate, you must also know the number of lizards basking on the stucco wall around the enclosure.
On the other end of the office building is an enclosure for the Russian Tortoises and the Box Turtles. This area has more mesquite trees and a greater land to water ratio. I won’t say these tortoises and box turtles are spoiled, but if you cast a shadow over their enclosure, you had better have some strawberries or other fresh vegetables. If you don’t, you will get “The Look”. They can make you feel as bad as a grandchild when you run out of ice cream. We are proud to say we have had several hatches of baby box turtles. We have a terrarium next to the sliding glass door in our family room where the hatchlings are kept until they are large enough so that the ravens can’t harm them. They have learned “The Look” and share in the breakfast fruit daily.
Part of our office space has been converted to Tom’s Place. This is where we keep our pet reptiles. This is an odd collection. It includes Sand Boas to Leopard Geckos, from Sonoran Mud Turtles to Gulf Coast Toads. We also have an aquarium set up complete with a floating turtle log for our hatchling aquatic turtles. If the weather is not right for night riding, there is not soccer on TV, you will find us in folding chairs watching the activities. It’s always more entertaining than watching the television.
As you can tell, we have a rough life, but hey, someone has to live it!