Errol Taskin Watching and photographing birds literally brought life to Errol Taskin after several years struggling to cope with permanent and painful disability. In 1998, Errol collapsed in his home, paralyzed, when a disk in his spine unexpectedly ruptured. He endured lengthy hospitalizations and unsuccessful surgeries. Eventually he regained the ability to walk with a cane but will always have pain. Provided by Errol Taskin Prior to his disability, Errol was a private computer consultant specializing in financial system design. He loved finding solutions to problems that others could not solve, especially when he was told that he would never be able to figure them out. Faced with the reality of no longer being able to work at the job he loved, he lost hope and gained weight. In 2004, he decided to spend his summer in the hot Louisiana sun to try to sweat off as much weight as he could. That’s when he discovered birds and photography. He wrote, “Sitting out there sweating, I began to notice all of these birds I had never seen before.” He could not see them long enough to look them up in a field guide, so he grabbed a cheap camera and began photographing them so that he could identify the birds from the photos. He went on to say, “One thing led to another and six cameras later I am still trying to get better shots…. And I lost 50 pounds in the process!” Errol is amazed that he lived in his house, in a heavily wooded suburban neighborhood, for 18 years and never saw or noticed all the birds that visit his yard. He wrote, “The birds have really inspired me in many ways. It was a path I was meant to walk. I have learned much from them.” FeederWatching Red-headed Woodpecker by Errol Taskin Errol watches his feeders two to five hours a day. He wrote, “Since I could not get to the birds, I had to get them closer to me. I have moved a group of feeders closer and closer to where I sit, and some of the birds come within a few feet of me now and have learned I mean them no harm.” When asked about feeders, Errol said, “I cannot think of anything I do not offer.” Errol provides water, suet, sunflower seed, mixed seed, meal worms, orange wedges, jam, bread with mixed corn and peanuts, and nyjer seed. He usually also keeps at least one nectar feeder up, but in the summer he has as many as 15 spread across his ¾ acre backyard. The birds Errol’s favorite bird never comes to the feeder. He enjoys watching the Sharp-shinned Hawks that breed nearby. “Hawks are just magnificent birds that I never tire of watching.” Errol watches the young hawks learn to hunt–first on lizards, then mice and small snakes, and on up to larger prey. Errol enjoys watching all birds, though. He says that Carolina Wrens provide a lot of activity and humor, and Eastern Bluebirds are also a favorite. His most common feeder bird is the Northern Cardinal. His most unusual visitor is an Eastern Phoebe, which stays all winter: “He definitely marches to his own drummer–never eats out of the mealworm feeder but can catch them before they hit the ground when they crawl over the side.” "Life is full of tough decisions" --Eastern Bluebirds by Errol Taskin Errol has photographed over 50 species. He enjoys seeing the birds that only visit during migration but noted that they always seem to show up when he does not have his camera handy. The most surprising bird that Errol has seen was an egret (presumably visiting from a nearby lake) standing on the side of his bird bath. FeederWatching tips Errol recommends that in addition to food and water, FeederWatchers provide landscaping to attract birds. Berry bushes that he added attract beautiful Cedar Waxwings, and White-throated Sparrows are drawn to the brush piles he maintains near the feeders. He suggested that FeederWatchers consult information on landscaping for wildlife information that is usually provided on each state’s fish and wildlife department web site. Information can also be found at the National Wildlife Federation. Giving back Errol’s discovery of birds and photography has been a blessing to many. He has written extensively about his experiences, including an article about his beloved Sharp-shinned Hawks that originally appeared on his blog and was later published in the Spring 2007 issue of the Palo Alto Review . He is currently working with a high school to develop a program on birds and photography for gifted children. FeederWatch has used many of his photos on our web site and in print publications.