Brad’s passion for backyard birding came from his parents and grandfather. He grew up in Iowa and his family had birdfeeders. One of Brad’s most vivid childhood memories was the birds against the pure white snow in the sunshine. His family had a small feeder that his dad had painted. Especially in the winter, his parents would visit the butcher to get fat scraps and put them in a mesh bag. Until Wild Birds Unlimited began to develop products, this was a common bird suet feeding technique.
His grandfather lived in the Ozark Mountains on Table Rock Lake, Missouri. He was a full-blooded Iowa Sioux Native American Indian. Having grown up on a reservation he appreciated nature and was a hunter and fisherman. Every year his family visited him in the summer and Brad always looked forward to seeing the many hummingbirds, as well as the bluebirds since they were more abundant than his Iowa home.
In 1995 Brad was 26 years old and he heard about a job at a “bird store” on Lovers Lane. He thought they sold birds. When he found out they sold wild bird seed he was surprised that anyone could make a living selling seed. Besides working at the store, Brad also does custom installations. That is Brad’s favorite part of his job, being outside in nature and working with a customer in their yard. He finds pleasure in setting up a yard knowing the customer will enjoy the birds.
Most commonly, he sets-up Purple Martin houses, other feeder set-ups, fountains and birdbaths. Experienced and researched customers know where they want the feeders and direct Brad to set-up. Others want Brad’s many years of experience and want to be involved in the process while he guides them. While some backyard birding customers want Brad to use his own judgment and simply wish to come home and start watching for the birds to find their new feeders.
In Brad’s free time, he enjoys being in his backyard. He recently built a new deck and patio and is fully taking advantage of it to view his birds. He also enjoys digging in his garden and mountain biking. For Brad, both mountain biking and birding have the same benefit, a chance to relax and be present in the moment. Brad believes that is what backyard bird watching is all about, it is a relatively easy way to see wildlife, relaxing in the comfort of one’s own yard and having complete downtime. Biking is also a way to escape, but in a fleeting way - seeing nature thru the accelerated lens of trees flying by, the smells, the sounds and watching the trail.
Favorite Feeder Bird: Cardinals. They were both my grade school and high school mascot. The image of a Cardinal bird head is burned in my brain. Most of our customers want to attract Cardinals to their yard. Customers like to tell their story about a loved one passing away and how seeing a Cardinal was a comfort to them.
Favorite Bird Food: All bark butter products because it is a great product for protein and calcium for everyday wild birds. It is also excellent for bringing in the birds that don’t eat seeds, like wrens for example. When I buy Bark Butter Bits, I notice they eat the bark butter bits first.
Favorite Bird Feeder: Dinner Bell because it is the most versatile feeder we have. We can offer multiple food products in it like seed cylinders, bark butter bits, loose seed or fruit. Because the sides are slick, we can offer mealworms. I also like the adjustable top so that the larger birds can’t get in.
Favorite Bird Experience: I have two experiences that both involve feeling like I was part of a bird flock. The first was when I went to Lewisville, Texas, to see the annual Purple Martin Roost in July. As night fell we were standing under the trees near the post office where thousands of Purple Martins come to roost. It was like being in a laser video game with a tornado of birds coming at us and hearing the deafening sound of their wings. They were shooting right past us and we almost thought we would be impaled. Purple Martins migrate from Brazil to nest. When the nesting season is over, they form big roosts and fly thru Texas.
The second amazing bird experience I had was mountain biking at Tyler State Park. I turned a corner and there were a bunch of Possum Hall, the bushes were about shoulder height. I flushed out about 200 robins! For about ten feet I felt like I was flying with the robins. It was an incredible rush.
Bird Dream Come True: Three years ago, I set-up a Screech Owl box in our backyard (see picture below). I always looked at that box and wondered what was going on inside. Last October I installed a camera in the owl box and it allowed me to get an inside peek at the life of the owls. The camera is tied to my TV and it has been amazing to watch them lay eggs, hatch and fledge. We feel like we are right inside their next and even get to know their personalities. I can’t wait until next October!