For the life of me, I did not recognize him and couldn't place him.
"I'm sorry. I can't place how I know you," I said. "If I see people out of context, I sometimes have trouble."
He shook his head, incredulous. "Mike Doyen," he said.
"Oh, for crying out loud," I said; "I can't believe myself."
"I can't believe it either," he said, laughing.
Mike Doyen is the leading birder around these parts. I've know him for years, and I've written stories about him for the Rolla Daily News and The Ozarks Chronicle. To give you and idea how important he is to birding, take a look at this press release from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages beginner and seasoned birders to discover nature by exploring the best of the best places to birdwatch around Missouri. Finding them is as easy as going online to the new website, Great Missouri Birding Trail, at www.greatmissouribirdingtrail.com.
The website includes maps of the best birding sites around the Show-Me State, along with information on various aspects of bird conservation. Pages include birding tips, beginner basics, landscaping for birds, and how to get involved with local bird organizations.
The best-birding locations include mostly public land, such as conservation areas and state parks, and cover various types of bird habitats, such grasslands, woodlands, forests, glades, and savannas. Each type of natural community hosts a different suite of bird species to identify.
The Great Missouri Birding Trail project was started by Mike Doyen of Rolla, president of the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation. The Trail is now a partnership between the Foundation and MDC, with support from other state and federal agencies and birding organizations.
Nothing is more critical to birds than habitat, Doyen said. If the habitat is right, the birds will be there. Visit some of the more than two hundred sites along the Trail and become familiar with the diversity of habitat that birds call home. Then ask yourself, what can I do in my backyard to improve habitat for birds?
The St. Louis and Kansas City sections of the Great Missouri Birding Trail website are complete. Work continues on four remaining sections, including: northeast, central, southwest, and southeast, which will be completed in the next year.
In the restaurant, we all talked a bit about feeding, watering and providing habitat for birds. I asked him if he had a problem with grackels, big and aggressive birds that swoop in and eat all the feed and seed .
"Yes," he said. "They're like Republicans. They're everywhere." Then he laughed. See, Mike and I are polar opposites politically, but we get along fine because we both recognize friendship transcends politics.
"What do you do about them?" I asked.
"I feed them. They'll leave eventually,," he said.
We told what all we have done out our place to make it bird-friendly, and I hope you will sing onto the new website to find out what you can do, too.