Thomas Lerczak Tom Lerczak, photo by Julie Lerczak. A labor strike provided the opening for Tom Lerczak to find birds. Tom was always interested in the outdoors and enjoyed hiking long, forest trails. When the company he worked for had a work stoppage in the early 1980s, Tom spent the new-found time taking long hikes in forest preserves around Chicago. He first started really noticing birds on one of these hikes. He wrote, “I still remember seeing my first Black-capped Chickadee. I was pretty excited.” Tom lives with his wife, Julie, three miles outside of Havana, Illinois, a small Midwestern town. Their 3.5 acre property is immediately surrounded by woods. The area is mostly agricultural fields, with some grassland and a few homes. Almost half of their property is a prairie-savanna that Tom has been restoring ever since he moved in. Most of the rest of the property, especially around the house, is more manicured, with plenty of brush and trees for wildlife. FeederWatching routine Tom has been FeederWatching since 2000, and his project routine is similar to that of most participants. He spends some time watching his feeders without distractions, especially if he will be away for a significant portion of a count day. Then he plans some activities he can do right in front of the window so he can check the feeders frequently. Tom has four hanging feeders filled with black-oil sunflower seeds, two suet cake feeders, and a heated bird bath. His favorite FeederWatch bird is the Cooper’s Hawk, which he only gets to see occasionally. The most common bird at his feeder last winter was the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, but other years it has been the American Goldfinch or the House Finch. Brown-capped Rosy-Finches Tom recommends that FeederWatchers set up their count sites so that they can observe their feeders from as comfortable an environment as possible. For example, Tom is able to turn a recliner toward the window on count days so that he can easily see what is on the feeders. He finds being able to do other things while also checking the feeders allows him to observe more than he would otherwise.Tom's count site outside of Havana, Illinois. Photo by Tom Lerczak. Other bird-related activities Each year Tom conducts a Breeding Bird Survey route for the USGS’s Breeding Bird Survey project. He is a member of the Illinois Audubon Society and the Illinois Ornithological Society, and he occasionally participates in or leads birding field trips. In addition to submitting counts to eBird, Tom usually conducts several bird surveys at a variety of sites in central Illinois during the breeding season. Also, he has been doing a long-term count of overwintering Red-headed Woodpeckers at Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve, in central Illinois, since 2003. He described the woodpecker research on his blog, called The River Landing. He is also the author of Side Channels: A Collection of Nature Writing and Memoir. Read more about Tom’s FeederWatching experiences in a blog post he made in 2010. Tom described Project FeederWatch and included graphs illustrating changes he observed in the birds at his feeders during his first ten years of FeederWatching.