Do you prefer teaching young or adult birders? Why?
Adults are just large kids, so in some ways there’s not much difference. Basically I’m happy teaching anybody who wants to learn, and I enjoy sharing ideas and knowledge with young and old alike. I also learn every time I look at birds with others, so it’s a two-way street. Young birders have more energy and absorb information more quickly, which is exciting and, after a week, exhausting! But it’s great. Of course, with adults I can sit around and drink tequila till 2 a.m. and discuss different aspects of birding, or at least the same aspects in different contexts, and that’s fun too.
Of all your publications, which did you enjoy writing the most? Can you talk about your upcoming publication on molt?
That’s a hard one. I tend to enjoy whatever I’m working on in the present – it consumes me and I really get into it. I’m sure I learned the most from doing the Mexico guide, which was basically 14 years of my life, from first visiting Mexico to publication of the book. Traveling all over Mexico and Central America was one adventure after another.
I also really enjoyed working on the molt book I just handed in to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, entitled “The Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds.” It starts with an overview and introduction to molt, and then has a family-by-family treatment (and lots of color photos) that discusses the molt strategies of each family and how molt relates to life history (such as migration distance, habitat, clutch size, food, body size and wing length, etc) and to ancestry. I learned so much by reading lots of papers and books to try and answer my questions about molt. But for every family there are always more unanswered questions, and posing these for people to think about is also fun. (For those who haven’t written books, it can take “forever” between turning in a manuscript and its publication, or at least a year, so I’d like to think the book will be out in spring 2010ish.)