10-year challenge: IUTHB edition

An article about the 10-year challenge popped up while I was trying to think of ideas for a 10-year blog anniversary post.  The premise is simple: post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago next to a current photo of yourself.  Perfect.  Here is the bird blog version. 

Birding in 2009...  The main difference between then and now is that then I didn't know I was birding.  Yes, I was going out and taking lots of photos of birds and yes, I started this blog specifically to keep track of what I was seeing (and share it all with my mom who loves birds).  But I didn't know birding was a thing.  I had no idea what a life list was, or a county list, or eBird or OBOL or any of that. 

Also, I ignored small birds for the most part.

Fall 2009, Jackson Bottom Wetlands

When I did venture a guess at a small bird I was wrong.  I called this a Savannah Sparrow.  

Bird ID in 2009...  I would open up my Peterson's Guide and make my best guess, throw it on my blog, and wait to see if one of my two initial readers (Laura and Michele) would correct me.

Fall 2009, Ridgefield NWR

I did not misidentify this bittern though.  I wrote, "here is an american bittern... i had never seen one before and i thought he was cool looking."  Capital letters were something I did not appreciate back then.

Fall 2009, Ridgefield NWR

I called this Rough-legged Hawk a Bald Eagle.  Because, you know, white on top.  Laura Whittemore left me a very kind comment: "Your Bald Eagle is actually a very nifty Rough-legged Hawk - a tundra dweller that resides here in the winter. From a distance it looks like a vanilla ice cream cone - dark cone and white scoop on top. Great find! Also, they really like to perch on skinny branches just like in the photo."

She is so helpful!

Where I birded in 2009...  I was of the mindset that to find interesting birds I had to visit wildlife refuges and parks.  Most of my birding time was spent driving the Ridgefield NWR auto tour, visiting various refuges and preserves I found through google or other people's blogs, and walking my dog at local parks, especially Thousand Acres (aka Sandy River Delta pre-parking lot) and Kelley Point Park.  My photos were mostly of dogs with an occasional bird thrown in.

 My weekend dog crew at 1k Acres:  Josie, Charlie, Jake, Mays (Summer 2009)

Green Heron, Thousand Acres, Summer 2009

I visited Tualatin River NWR and someone showed me a Western Screech-Owl.  That same week I drove a couple hours up to Nisqually NWR and someone showed me a Short-eared Owl through a scope.  Owls must only exist at wildlife refuges, right?

That blob on the left on the grass is the Nisqually SEOW, Fall 2009

Keeping track of birds in 2009... This blog was my only means of tracking sightings.  I mean, that was why I started it.  I could easily tell you if I had seen or not seen a particular species because I had seen so few.  It wasn't until 2011 that I bought a notebook at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod and tried keeping lists of birds.

"Kingfisher (Belted?)"

Photographing birds in 2009...  I took a photo of every bird I saw that I thought I could identify.  I have very few sparrow photos from the early days but hundreds of herons, ducks, eagles, hawks, and geese.  I was using a little Canon Powershot I had bought the previous winter and thought my photos were pretty good.  They were not but that is ok. 

 Red-tailed Hawk, Ridgefield NWR, Fall 2009

Bald Eagle, Kelley Point Park, Fall 2009

I remember being very happy with these photos back then.  I don't think they would make the cut today.

2009... As I'm going through my old hard drive with my 2009 folder it's been fun to see how my photos changed throughout that year.  Photos of friends and dogs (I still worked at the doggie daycare) and sometimes scenery evolved into mostly bird photos, lots of dog photos and some friends and family shots. 

My life was drastically different:  I lived in an apartment just off Interstate Ave, I was single, I worked at the doggie daycare full time, my friends were starting to all move away and I made no effort to replace them.  Instead I reveled in the fact that I was no longer expected to be at a bar or a show till last call and spent my weekends exploring with Jake. 

Now for 2019.  If you read my blog you probably already know how things have changed, but here we go.

Birding in 2019...  I definitely know I'm birding now.  Even when I say I'm not.  My stepson recently admitted he does not enjoy birding (we go too slow) but he loves hiking so last weekend we took him on a hike at Cascade Head in the future 5MR.  Of course, we were still birding but we moved quickly enough he didn't notice as much.

Finally saw some future 5MR Northern Harriers

Bird ID in 2019... Identifying birds has never been easier or harder!  At least now I know what I'm looking at the majority of the time.  I no longer rely on a Peterson's Guide but rather a combo of the Sibley app (love the comparison feature) and eBird photos.  If I get tripped up by something I can still throw it on the blog and hope someone will point me in the right direction.   For example, this accipiter from Cascade Head:

I'm pretty sure this is a Cooper's Hawk, but willing to be convinced otherwise. 

Where I bird in 2019... IN MY FREAKIN 5MR!  I've done some traveling this year, but my focus has been my cluster of birding patches in my 5MR (and my future 5MR).  Not wildlife refuges.  Some parks.  A lot of random places I made into eBird hotspots. 

Looking south upon our future 5MR: Salmon River Estuary, God's Thumb, the Roads End tide pools, Devils Lake, the Siuslaw National Forest, and Lincoln City

Birds are everywhere, even owls. 

Keeping track of birds in 2019... eBird eBird eBird!  Lists lists lists!  eBird! eBird! eBird!  Lists! Lists! Lists!  Yard lists, county lists, patch lists, 5MR lists, state lists, DAY BIRDS FTW!  I love all lists. 

Photographing birds in 2019...  It's still a big part of birding for me though I often go birding without my camera.  That said I've upgraded my gear several times over the decade and now use a Canon 80d with a 100-400mm lens. My pictures are better but I'm not trying to be a professional photographer.

Kingfisher (Belted?), East Devils Lake, last weekend

2019... A lot has changed in the last decade.  I acquired another dog, bought a house,  quit working with dogs and started working at the Backyard Bird Shop, went on tons and tons of adventures, got better at birding, got better at blogging, started Birds and Beers with Sarah, made up a thing called a 5MR, met my husband, sold my house, started a world-wide 5MR challenge, got married, bought a house at the coast, and here we are now in Vancouver, Washington. 

It hasn't all been smooth and easy but when I look back these ten years I don't dwell on the bad stuff.  The good stuff has been way too amazing.  GOOD TIMES!!!!!

Me in 2009:

Me in 2019:


  1. This is an excellent post, happy tenth!!! Yeah I can still hang at shows pretty well but the thought of closing down bars on the reg, uh, has lost its appeal.

    That estuarine scenery is pretty pretty. Awesome and weird harrier shot. Agreed about COHA.

    1. Thanks! That's the ocean behind the harriers which made them look extra cool.

  2. This is a delightful and thoughtful post. I love the comparisons. Um, esp the photos of you ten years apart. Ha! Thanks for the shout-out, and I'm glad I could help you along the way. I envy all your birding adventures and only hope to be as cool as you someday in my 60s maybe.

  3. Also, I'd agree with Cooper's hawk. Its head sticks out and its body is really tubular. If I were to make a gender guess, I'd lean female. I don't know if you were debating between coop and sharpie or coop and gos, but I do know a big field mark for gos is wavy tail bands, and this bird's are perfectly straight.

    1. Thanks, yes the debate was Cooper's/Sharpie. I felt pretty confident and then started questioning it...

  4. I. Love. This! Your journey isn't over yet. "The path is the goal" is something I tell myself as a reminder to be more present while also reflecting on the birds and birding experiences. It's funny how our focus or goals can shift and grow.

    1. Thanks, Whitney! I agree completely with your sentiments on birding. I hope I never settle down in that regard.

  5. Wow. I was one of your original readers?! I stopped blogging and got away from reading blogs, but recently started reading yours again. I have always enjoyed it. This was a fun post. You've come a long way with this whole birding thing :) And congrats on becoming a wife! I didn't know that happened.

    1. You were! I stalked yours and Laura's blogs, looking for ideas for places to bird (and birds to see) and you probably felt like you HAD to look at my blog :) Glad you started reading it again. Obviously we need to make our occasional Sunday bybs chats a bit longer!!

  6. Aw, so sweet! Happy decade-a-bird-aversary! And cheers to the next 10.

    1. Thanks, Audrey! I can only imagine your 10-year anniversary as you livestream birds of paradise from New Guinea or something.

    2. Hi Jen, this was fun looking back...10 yrs of birding, you've come a long way eh!! Everyone begins at the beginning...I think birders of today have it way easier than we old schoolers had it ....no internet to compare bird calls on, no apps to do a quick look at photos, and no ebird to correct us when we're wrong (which enables one to learn faster). So having to make that transition from 35 mm film, and an old filed guide with pages stuck together by a random rain to the digital age and phone apps has been a huge challenge for us older birders, but I think it's been a huge step up also. Great photo of you and Jacob!


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