Bangor Daily News "Good Birding" columnist Bob Duchesne captured this photo of a black-capped chickadee as part of an experiment to see how close he could get to the bird feeder without alarming the birds. Credit: Courtesy of Bob Duchesne

Time flies. It seems like only yesterday that I got a Facebook friend request from Bangor Daily News outdoors writer John Holyoke, which I gleefully accepted. Within minutes, I got another request: “How would you like to write a weekly birding column for the Bangor Daily News?” I gleefully accepted that, too. That was 10 years ago. My first “Good Birding” column ran on Nov. 26, 2011.

I wasted no time in making my first mistake. While discoursing on an unrelated topic, I casually mentioned that ring-necked ducks nest in tree cavities. They don’t. This was quickly pointed out in a Letter to the Editor by an alert reader, who suggested my column could use more scientific research. Wow! One week in, and I already had my first hate mail! I had arrived.

That first error was one of many ways in which this column has changed my life. I became scrupulous about researching and fact-checking everything. In so doing, I learned a ton of things I didn’t know, or worse, knew wrong. If there is anything educational in this column, nobody benefits from it more than I do.

This column turned me into a photographer. I had scant interest prior to publishing. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’m only allotted 750. Adding a photo is like cheating. Nowadays a camera goes with me everywhere. I stockpile photos. Photos inspire columns. I don’t think I’ve risked life and limb to get the perfect photo, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

This column turned me into a videographer. Three years ago, I got an email from then-digital sports editor Pete Warner, asking if I had any interest in supplying occasional videos for the BDN website. Somehow, that struck me as being pure fun. The first one appeared on March 9, 2019.

The timing was fortuitous. COVID struck, and suddenly everybody wanted virtual content, especially videos. Nowadays, video equipment goes with me everywhere I go, even though I’m still learning how to use it.

A decade later, I have folders full of stories, photos, videos and — dare I say it — lessons learned. If that sounds like a good opportunity to do another virtual Zoom program, you’re right. Next Friday night, the Penobscot Valley Chapter of Maine Audubon presents: “THE BEST OF BOB: Ten Years of Work as the BDN Bird Guy.” I think it could be entertaining, although not as entertaining as THE WORST OF BOB might have been.

Chapter members already know about this free program, one of the benefits of joining Maine Audubon. However, anybody can sign up to watch. The link is on the chapter website at pvc.maineaudubon.org.  

If you can’t attend, fear not. Many of the videos are now posted on a Bob Duchesne YouTube channel, ignored by millions. And most of the lessons learned will be right here in print in another couple of weeks. For instance, No. 5 is: “The best way to avoid being a threat to birds is to not look like one.”

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

Maine has more than its fair share of birds and birding locations. There’s adventure in every corner of the state. But my most popular columns focus on what’s going on right in your own backyard.

During the height of the pandemic, I produced several backyard videos. One was on how close I could get to the bird feeder without alarming the birds. It got 620 views. Another revealed how to spot woodpeckers in the backyard. 757 views. A third disclosed the secrets of how birds were using my backyard in winter. It was viewed a whopping 2,183 times.

However, a video on how to identify hawks from the top of Cadillac in Acadia National Park? 48 views. Uh, OK, note to self: spend more time in the backyard. I’m sure a hummingbird video would kill.

Speaking of killing, there was one video that attracted 2,724 views. It showed off a northern goshawk that wanted to kill me when I got too close to its nest. Apparently, there are two types of popular videos: those in the backyard, and those where the author risks death.

Your feedback has been delightful. I’ve been asked to identify birds in blurry photos, and songs on fuzzy recordings. I’ve answered “Yes!” to scores of people who asked, “Did I really see this bird in my yard?” This column has been a pleasure to write for a decade. I can keep this up as long as you can.

Bob Duchesne, Good Birding

Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at mainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.