Rich Armstrong is the Chair of Field Trips for Northern Arizona Audubon Society – Below the Rim (BTR). And what Rich Armstrong does best is help people find birds. While sitting on his back porch recently, awaiting Costa’s and Calliope Hummingbirds, Rich said, “It’s what I do” in response to being thanked for sharing these birds. He’ll do whatever it takes to help others find birds and birding as a hobby. NAAS’s Vice President, Dennis Tomko, has said many times that he didn’t know “bird” was a verb; until he met Rich.
Rich takes his birding very seriously. On January 1, 1989, he said to his wife Nanette, “Let’s try this birding as a hobby…” and the rest is history. He has seen a bird in all 50 states, has a huge American Birding Association (ABA) list of 815 species. He’s seen 424 species in Arizona alone, with 350 of those in Yavapai County. He and Nanette have been on bird watching trips to South Africa, Ecuador, Costa Rica and many other countries having seen 2197 world birds.
Rich is exactly the type of birder you want to have teaching others because his knowledge is so vast. He loves teaching and has taught over ten “Birding 101” workshops with the most recent at the Camp Verde Library this past April. The Library loved it! “We had 20 in-person participants and five virtual. Several participants told us that they enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot.” Several attendees liked it so much they joined NAAS and subscribed to articles publish through our website. Rich has brought many, many people into the hobby of bird watching – most of whom are active birders to this day.
“The Clerk in the Children’s Library got to participate and is excited to bring the information she learned to the children who will be observing birds at the feeders donated by a NAAS member for that exact purpose.” To be so accomplished, you’d think he could easily dismiss those with less experience; but to the contrary, he always encourages any level of birder.
One person said, “I didn’t think I could listen to someone talk for two hours about birds and not be bored, but I wasn’t. He was extremely engaging and I learned a lot!” His boisterous tone has earned him the nickname of “Big Mouth of the Valley”; which he has rather embraced. His sense of humor keeps people entertained while they learn about birds. This title is also earned because he raises the alarm when a new migrant swoops into the Verde Valley, as he did in Texas for many years. Peak migration is his favorite time of year. (FYI: All of April and May. Then again in Mid-August – October). He has an email list of birders who want to know the immediate whereabouts of each new species that flies in and he’s more than glad to trumpet their whereabouts to the over 100 on his email list.
He is the “Birding Pal” for the Verde Valley and has raised at least $1757 of donations for NAAS. His accomplishments in birding organizations include:
- Led over 100 NAAS field trips.
- Field Trip Chair for NAAS for 7-8 years
- Organized all of the field trips for the Hummingbird Festival.
- Led 30 field trips for Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival.
- Steward of Sedona Wetlands 5-6 years
- He and Nanette resurrected the NAAS Yardie Award and have presented 58 Yardie Awards to deserving yard watchers.
NAAS would like to thank and recognize Rich’s outstanding efforts to impart a love for the hobby and sport of birding to others.
Sport? You ask? How is bird watching a sport? Watch the movie “The Big Year” with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. It’s a fun way to learn about the sport of bird watching. A “Big Year” does not have to be running around the entire United States or World for a year. It can be done in your own backyard. Rich and Nanette Armstrong have been watching for new arrivals in their yard since they moved here 10 years ago and have seen a whopping 169 species for their Yard list. They feed birds throughout the seasons spending over $1,200 per year on bird seed, suet, and sugar. They are a great example of a Win/Win for birds and humans
Finally, Rich encourages birders to participate in Citizen Science. He lets birders know when National Audubon has Christmas Bird Count, Feeder Watcher and Global Big Days (May 8, 2021) so that everyone can enjoy this wonderful sport while adding to citizen science efforts. He’s always willing to share the Sedona Wetlands
Thanks Rich for setting many folks – young and old – on a lifetime of love for birds and birding!