Interview with Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Our newest contributors are long-time bird conservationists and the minds behind the Biggest Week in American Birding.
What are your day jobs?
Kimberly is the executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Kenn is a writer with more than 10 books to his credit, including the Kaufman Field Guide series.
Do you have any special projects coming up that you can tell us about?
The Kaufman Field Guide series already includes books on birds, butterflies, mammals and insects, but we’re really excited about the next one: We’re working together on a nature guide to New England. This will cover common wildflowers, seashells, mushrooms, turtles, everything! Including birds, of course.
Where are your favorite places to go birding in the United States?
Kenn started in on a list—Magee Marsh in northwest Ohio, the Dry Tortugas off Florida, Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island—and then Kimberly pointed out that the most rewarding discoveries often happen in their own backyard.
Word on the street is you were in a band together at some point. What’s the story behind that, and is there any chance of seeing you rock out together?
It’s true! Kenn played electric bass and Kimberly was the lead singer of a classic rock band. The band is currently on hiatus, but we’re thinking of putting together another one, so there may still be a chance to see us rock out!
What’s a bird that’s missing from your life list?
Actually, neither of us keeps a life list. But one North American bird that neither of us has seen is the whiskered auklet. It’s a weird little seabird that lives only around a few islands in the Aleutian chain in far western Alaska, and we haven’t made the special trip to see it yet. (Kimberly adds: This is the only bird in North America that Kenn hasn’t seen. Isn’t that amazing? I really want to be there with him when he sees this bird for the first time!)
You’re the ones behind the Biggest Week in American Birding. What spurred you to start this event?
The answer to this one is simple: building support for bird conservation. When more than 60,000 of your closest friends come to northwest Ohio in May to go birding, it generates a lot of excitement and is a huge boost to the economy. As a result, the local communities have embraced birds and birding in a major way and have become key supporters of bird conservation. We also want to point out that we have some great partners in making the festival happen! Visit the website, biggestweekinamericanbirding.com, to learn more about this event, the partners and a place called “The Warbler Capital of the World”!
What kind of backyard birding setup do you have at your house?
We’re ridiculously busy, so we keep our feeder setup simple to maintain. We’re currently offering sunflower and thistle seed, peanuts and suet cakes, and of course, we have a hummingbird feeder. We also offer water in a few different areas.
What’s the most unusual bird you’ve had in your backyard?
A white-winged crossbill! Our 8-year-old neighbor helped attract this rare Ohio visitor with a wonderful feeder she designed with help from her mom and aunt. They live just down the street from us, and the bird visited both yards for several days. It always went to the same homemade feeders!
Who spots birds more easily?
OK, we know this is going to sound really sappy, but something that’s always amazed us is how often we spot birds at the exact same time. Even in the tropics, with big flocks of birds up high in the forest canopy, we’ll find ourselves zeroing in on the same bird at the same time.
We’ve heard you sometimes write haiku. Can you each share one with us?
And black-throated blue warbler
Used up my haiku.
Kenn Kaufman is great.
His wife is very lucky.
Birds make love happen.
Kimberly, tell us something people might not know about Kenn.
He’ll never admit it, but he secretly loves our two indoor cats, Kirby and Pearl!
Kenn, tell us something people might not know about Kim.
Most people notice right away that she’s wonderful. But they might not realize that she’s capable of sheer magic. Now, I’m a scientist. I’m rational and objective about everything, but being with Kimberly I’ve learned that there really is magic in the world.