It's funny how the world works sometimes. I've been Facebook friends with Alison for at least a year and our worlds have almost crossed- almost, until today. As fate would have it, we both were waiting for separate flights in the Anchorage airport. I didn't pass up the opportunity to interview her for The Birding Project, and she happily obliged.
Why birding? What drives you to travel and watch birds?
It started out when I was 6, my parents took me out to look for ducks. I’m pretty sure they regretted doing that, because two weeks afterwards I saw a Short-eared Owl, and that was really cool. Let’s look for gulls, lets look for sandpipers, let’s look for warblers… so much for their weekend naps!
My family hunts a lot. I think that’s what birding was for me, is another form of hunting. You go out with a target in mind, and having to search for it and figure out how you’re going to find it, with weather conditions. You know that you’ve seen it, and you know that you’ve put in the work, and it’s on your list.
Guiding to me is actually more fulfilling than birding is. When you guide, and you show a bird to somebody that’s really wanted to see it for a really long time, it’s like seeing that bird for the very first time all over again. Knowing that you were instrumental in that process, and feeling that joy, and seeing their joy…
People bring new perspectives. Hearing their observations can expand my understanding on a bird that I am already familiar with.
I care a lot about the list of my clients. It’s exciting and I love it, but i’d be just as happy seeing that bird in Russia or Japan.
Has it been challenging to be a young female birder?
There’s definitely more layers of difficulty in that. I started going to bird camp when i was 16. It was like a lek. There were all these young male birders. I always felt like the only female grouse on the lek.
Fortunately it’s different now, there’s a lot of women birders. I’ve missed out on getting [birds] because I was a girl.
That was probably the first time i was painfully aware of the shortcomings of my gender.
It has it’s advantages too, I never have problems meeting birders… networking has been really easy. Going places and having a normal dynamic is sometimes harder.
I try to tear down those gender barriers, but it takes time.