Hear Me Roar
April 2023 Issue
Photography submitted by Cindy and Ken Groff
Passion: Birding and RVing
Family: Ken—hubby; son Bradley (computers) who is married to Angie with our two oldest granddaughters, Charlee and DeAnna, they live in Kansas City; son Andrew (HHI Paramedic) who is married to Hilary, with one granddaughter, Bellamy, and expecting twins; and Daughter Corrine who is married to Brendan and works for SERG on HHI.
Pets: Chuck—a 9-year-old chocolate lab; Stache—a 11/2-year-old Tuxedo rescue cat; and Vinnie, our newest addition, a 6-month-old Ocicat.
First of all, where in the world are you right now?
Haha! We are currently in Benson, Arizona. Benson is known for Kartchner Caverns, a massive limestone cave known for the world’s longest stalactite formation. It is also centrally located to many birding hotspots.
You are a retired nurse and business owner, now you travel across America with your husband in an RV. Tell us what is on your things-to-do list these days.
We still have daily chores, cleaning, laundry, and maintenance items. When we don’t have a day of chores planned, we are off chasing birds or exploring the surrounding area. During this leg of our trip we have visited Tombstone, Kartchner Caverns, the Coronado National Forest and many birding spots.
How did you get into birding?
I am an avid birder. Cute story: One afternoon my husband said to me, “We need to have a hobby together.” My reply: “After 20 years of marriage? What do you have in mind?” Birding was his answer. Yes, it was perfect. I love wildlife and the outdoors. Ken has always enjoyed photography. And, that’s how we became birders.
What do you find most rewarding about birds?
It very rewarding and exciting to find a new bird. Or to find a rare bird. Rare birds are accounted according to the app ebird, which is run by Cornell University. It is a large, citizen science program, where regular folks report birds they find. Cornell experts then evaluate the information and determine if the bird is in it correct habitat at the correct time of year. This list is published by counties. We check this list regularly for the areas we are in to see if there’s a bird we may not have on our list.
What is the most unique or rare bird you have seen?
The Snowy Owl! This bird was found on Tybee Island during an irruption year in Feb 2013. An irruption is a sudden surge of birds that have migrated further than normal.
What would you say to others to get them
to love birds as much as you do?
You don’t have to travel far and wide to see beautiful birds. The Lowcountry is full of beautiful birds—the painted bunting is just one of them. Put up a feeder and be patient. Visit the local Wildbirds Unlimited stores for advice on seeders and feeders.
What are some of the most fascinating places
you’ve been while RV’ing?
We have visited so many wonderful places. Maine was memorable, exploring the Golden Highway in search of birds and Moose, drinking from mountain springs outside of Kokadjo. On the Maine coast we took a boat out to Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge to search for Atlantic puffins and other Pelagic (oceanic/sea) birds. In North Carolina we visited Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains, to see the reintroduce Elk herd. In Tennessee, it was the black bears. In Texas, we discovered many new birds, including the endangered whooping cranes, the tallest North American birds. We also visited the US border while there. In Arizona, we counted ducks on the Colorado River, visited Hoover Dam, and searched for big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, javelina pigs, ringtails, and coatis.
How has your life changed since “leaving it all behind?”
It was an adjustment. I have always been a wondering soul; I enjoy traveling. I do miss some things, like hosting my friends for coffee, or going to Dockside for lunch. I miss my family the most, but we talk and text regularly.
We’ve seen the Hollywood version of antics that can happen in the world of camping and RV Parks—think Robin Williams. What’s the funniest or scariest predicament you’ve been in since setting off across America?
A dangerous situation was an explosion and fire in a campground. Our scariest has been a bear getting a bit too close! Or was it the angus bull threatening to charge us? Both were “lets get the heck out of here NOW!” moments. We’ve had a couple classic RV moments when backing into a site in the pouring rain, or trying to level the RV in an impossible site.
What has surprised you most in your travels?
All the different driving styles from state to state, and how many folks say they want to do this someday.
What does being in nature do for you?
It’s just good for my soul.
If you could replicate one amazing experience
you’ve had in nature, what would that be?
I replicate it, as often as I can, by searching and finding a bird I haven’t seen before.
What are you currently “roaring” about?
My current bird list is creeping in on 500! I’m proud of my lifestyle; not everyone can do what we’re doing.