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Michael Retter at El TajÍn.
Michael was raised by three previous generations of central Illinoisans to have a deep appreciation for nature, but he took it a step further. His mother distinctly remembers being woken up at 6 o'clock on a Saturday morning by a 7-year-old who demanded she get out of bed to take a photograph of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the front yard. His dad is fond of telling the story of him bolting out of the house, shoeless, after his first Bald Eagle on a snowy January day.
In 2002 Michael received a B.A. in Biology from Illinois Wesleyan University, where he also studied classical voice as a music minor. He took regular road trips with friends into Mexico during holiday vacations. The birds, culture, and Oaxaca cheese proved so addictive that he pursued a career in tourleading there. During and after college, he worked five consecutive seasons with the National Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory on their Monitoring Birds of the Black Hills project. It's a beautiful area he never tires of visiting.
Complementing his position at Winging It, Michael puts his penchant for correct grammar and his interest in the minutiae of bird identification, taxonomy, and distribution to use as Technical Reviewer and "Sightings" Department Editor for Birding magazine. His roots with ABA run deep. Michael participated heavily in ABA's youth program in the late '90s and early oughts: contributing artwork and writing to the student newsletter, participating in the Young Birder of the Year contest, going to youth conferences, and attending two camps as a teenager. He credits these experiences with giving him the experience necessary for and making the connections that led him to his current jobs of Winging It editor and Tropical Birding tour leader. Michael's tourleading has taken him across the Americas (from Canada to Ecuador) and to Australasia. He has also birded in Great Britain.
Michael is a regular speaker at birding festivals and bird club meetings across North America. He serves on the Indiana Bird Records Committee and helps review eBird records from Illinois and Indiana. He has been a contributor of both prose and artwork to Meadowlark, the journal of the Illinois Ornithological Society, for well over 10 years. He also runs GBNA, the continent's email list for LGBT birders. Michael currently lives with his partner, Matt, in West Lafayette, Indiana. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics.
To see some of Michael's artwork and learn more about him, check out his webpage at http://www.xenospiza.com/