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Barbara Feldenstain
Barbara Feldenstain
Stars reviews Verified Purchase

At last a shop that really stands for something! Love the idea love the shirts and the boots. Recommended.

Dana Rimond
Dana Rimond
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First of all I love the designs, they are great! Second, the buying experience was good and not too complicated and third, I got my beautiful shoes on time which is nice as well. Overull expirience - I'll be back for more!

Bob Tarte
Bob Tarte
Stars reviews Verified Purchase

Love the shop and love the idea of apparel inspired by birds. the shirt that i've got was in a very high quality.

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An Interview with Hilarious Bob Tarte

An Interview with Hilarious Bob Tarte

Bob and his wife Linda live on the edge of a shoe-sucking, mink-infested swamp near the West Michigan village of Lowell. When not fending off mosquitoes during temperate months and chipping ice out of plastic wading pools in the depths of winter, Bob writes books about his pets. 

Bob is the author of the books Kitty Cornered, Enslaved by Ducks, Fowl Weather, and Feather Brained. 
Bob is currently writing a new book about animals called What the Mink Stole – Painfully Obvious Lessons Learned from Pets, Wildlife, and Ghosts.

 

The back-to-nature challenge

Birdtitude: Where were you born?

Bob: Grand Rapids, Michigan, just a few miles west of Lowell.

Birdtitude: How did you get to Lowell?

Bob: When I met my wife, Linda, she was living in a back-to-nature cabin in northern Michigan with no indoor plumbing and no electricity, and I was living in downtown Grand Rapids (with indoor plumbing and electricity). I knew she could never be happy living in the city, and I was getting fed up with urban life. People kept breaking into my car to steal such treasures as a $2 pair of sunglasses and a $1 notebook. I found a house in the country that we both liked, and I grew to love living with trees as neighbors.

Birdtitude: Where do you go in Lowell to get with nature?

Bob: Nature is right out the door. We live in a wooded area not far from the Grand River. Since I’ve been keeping track, I’ve seen 128 species of birds on our property. There are also some nice parks we visit to see birds and also just to get away from our very demanding pets.

Birdtitude: When do you see more wildlife, in the summer or in the winter?

Bob: Definitely we see more wildlife in the summer. In the winter, we have mornings that get as cold as -18F (-28C). But birds visit our bird feeders all year, and in the winter we see some bird species that we don’t see in warmer months, like the Pine Siskin and Dark-eyed Junco.

Birdtitude: You talk about a swamp on your land. Is it just a low lying mud patch or is it a true populated wetland?

Bob: It is a seasonal pond that fills up in the spring and can be bone dry by the time winter rolls around. But we also have a few small areas that stay wet all the time due to ground water. You don’t want to step one of those, because they are like quicksand.

Birdtitude: How far are you from the center of town?

Bob: We’re about two miles from the stores and fast food joints in Lowell, and a little farther from downtown Lowell, which is only a few blocks long.

Birdtitude: Do you also have a vegetable garden?

Bob: We do have a vegetable garden, but it never does all that well. My wife has back troubles, and I have always been lazy, so we don’t clear away the immensely tall weeds that grow up alongside the garden keep the sunlight from the vegetables. My wife has many flower gardens, and some of those do pretty well.

Birdtitude: Did you plant specific flowering plants to attract birds?

Bob: We’ve had butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and (Lantana camara) for the years, and we have serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), which the birds like. Otherwise, there are various wild berries and wildflowers in our woods that keep birds, butterflies, and other insects happy.

Bob Tarte,  Rose-breasted Grosbeak

"I never knew such an exotic looking bird lived in Michigan"

Birdtitude: Which birds are most common in your area?

Bob: My favorite is the outrageously beautiful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a chunky fellow who is all black-and-white except for a bright scarlet bib under his chin. This was the bird that got me interested in birding, because I never knew such an exotic looking bird lived in Michigan. We also get lots of American Goldfinches, five woodpecker species, Blue Jays, titmice, nuthatches… lots of variety.

Birdtitude: Do you get hummingbirds?

Bob: We have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and they can be very bold. I’ve had one fly over, hover in the air, and give me a long and possibly disapproving stare before buzzing away.

Birdtitude: Do you have any in your area?

Bob: A Cooper’s Hawk hangs around sometimes and goes after the songbirds. For some reason, it seems partial to We also get the occasional Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, and Osprey, but they don’t go after the birds. We get two or three owl species, too. Technically, they aren’t but don’t tell them that.

 

Bob Tarte, Cat, Kitty Cornered Book

Their wish is my command

Birdtitude: Your book Fowl Weather was very enthusiastically reviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition. Your Feather Brained was called “laugh out loud hilarious” by the prize winning naturalist and author Sy Montgomery.

After writing about birds what prompted you to write “Kitty Cornered”, a book about cats?

Bob: The cats were annoyed that our birds were getting so much attention and demanded a book of their own. I wanted to stay on their good side, so I decided to humor them.

Birdtitude: I thought people were born to be cat people. But you came to it late in life; what brought it about?

Bob: I never cared much for animals before marrying Linda. Then I realized that I loved just about every kind of pet. We’ve had many pet birds, but you can’t snuggle them very well. I have been able to give most of our cats a hug, and that’s endeared me to them. However, my favorite cat of all time was Frannie, and she seldom let me touch her. But we were very close. She was my cat.

Birdtitude: Do you really think you have known the personalities of your different cats?

Bob: I have tried to get to know our cats, but they are very, very deep. I am familiar with their habits and preferences, but they are mysterious beings. well above humans on the evolutionary ladder. If reincarnation exists, I would like to come back as someone’s pampered There is no better life.

Birdtitude: Why do you think some people hate cats?

Bob: Some people are jealous of a cat’s independence.

 

"Binky was the least friendly pet we ever had"

Birdtitude: How did you happen to have rabbits amidst all of your feathered pets?

Bob: My wife’s first choice for a pet was a bunny, because she thought they were sweet. But our first rabbit, Binky, was the least friendly pet we ever had. He had a sour disposition. He liked to be in the same room with to be held or petted.

 

Bob Tarte, Chicken, Hen

Extraordinary life with 52 pets in the house

 

Birdtitude: What would a typical day/ morning be at your house?

Bob: It would be too complicated to describe. Fortunately, I am away at a job in the morning and Linda does most of the pet chores. At one time, we had 52 pets, and almost every hour of the day involved some pet chores. Added to that, during the spring and summer, my wife volunteered to help raise and release orphan songbirds, and that added to the complexity. Basically, a morning consists of feeding our two cats, duck pen chores, keeping our two cats from fighting, taking care of our African Dusty, and other indoor birds, and trying to stop Dusty from wrenching his metal dish loose and throwing it around inside his cage.

Birdtitude: Did you spot any rare visitors?

Bob: Last winter I caught a glimpse of an Evening Grosbeak in . That’s a rare bird for Kent County. This spring, a Woodpecker hung around for a week or so, and they are uncommon in our area. Also, we usually only see a Red-breasted Nuthatch for a day or two during fall migration. This was the first spring we’ve had one, and she hung around for a while. One afternoon I had just filled the bird feeder and was carrying it back outside. While it was still in my hand, the nuthatch landed on the feeder, glanced up at me as if to say, “This is okay, isn’t it?” and then she chose a seed and flew off. I was absolutely amazed.

Birdtitude: Are you more a writer or a naturalist?

Bob: I am less stupid about writing than I am about nature.

Birdtitude: Did you start writing because of our love of animals? Or did your love of writing suggest animals to you as subjects?

Bob: I started off writing a column for a Los Angeles-based music magazine called The Beat writing reviews of ‘world music’ CDs. I started writing about my pets in my column, and before long I decided to try to write a book about them.

Birdtitude: In your books you speak about how you became a birder. What made you want to be a birder?

Bob: In the beginning, I simply wanted to put names to the birds I was seeing after I’d been dazzled by my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Then I started learning the songs, and I was captivated by them. But it was probably the thrill of the spring migration that really got to me. It is like a treasure hunt seeking out these gorgeous year, and birds are so smart and so observant. We are slow and dull witted in comparison.

Birdtitude: Did you start off with all the equipment, scopes etc.?

Bob: I started out with a $35 pair of binoculars.

Birdtitude: Have you continued?

Bob: I have gotten better binoculars.

Bob Tarte, Feather Brained Book, Birder

A unique act of grace by a woodpecker

Birdtitude: You have been associated with the Wild Life Rehab Center in Grand Rapids. What was the most rewarding rescue that you made in the rehab center?

Bob: We raised a Red-bellied Woodpecker my wife named Big Boy. After we released him, he would show up when we took our daily walk to the river through our woods. He would fly from tree to tree just to be with us. Later, we were convinced he encouraged a Green Heron to eat after Wildlife Rehab Center released the heron on our property. It turned out that the heron had been in the cage next to the woodpecker at the rehab center. We think that being with his friend the woodpecker gave the Green Heron a boost and brought him back to full health. I tell the whole story in my book Feather Brained.

Birdtitude: What was the most unexpected animal that you handled in the rehab center?

Bob: We once raised a batch of seven Northern Flicker woodpeckers, and they were wild and crazy. We loved them, and they loved to peck us when we brought them food a walk-in outdoor cage. Trust me, you don’t want to get pecked by a woodpecker! They weren’t mean. They were just exuberant.

Birdtitude: Do you think that people in a rural area like Lowell are more attuned to nature than people in larger cities?

Bob: They are attuned to nature in different ways, though I do run into people who live out in the country and don’t have much interest in nature.

Bob Tarte, African grey parrot, birder

"I miss her every single day"

Birdtitude: If you had to go to an island and you could take only one of your pet birds with you - who would it be, and why??

Bob: I recently lost my African parrot Bella to a heart attack. I would treasure having even another moment with her.

Birdtitude: Do you believe that all sentient creatures have personalities?

Bob: Yes, of course.

Birdtitude: What would your top three recommendations for entry level birders would be?

Bob: Get a bird feeder, if that’s possible, and get to know the birds that use it. Once you know those birds by sight, get to know their songs. Then expand from there – and one good way is to go out looking for birds with a birder. I picked up a lot that way.

Birdtitude: What would be your best piece of advice for anyone who is not a birder and is going to marry a birder

Bob: Don't.

Bob Tarte, Cat, Birder

Four books, one podcast, what's next - ghosts?? 

Birdtitude: You have written books that have been highly acclaimed for their warmth and humor. Were you ever a stand-up comedian?

Bob: I am very uncomfortable around human beings and wouldn’t cope well with the rejection that stand-up comedians receive.

Birdtitude: You have written four books and recorded 95 episodes of an engaging podcast about birds and pets and managed to do this while taking care of  many animals. What should your readers/followers expect next? Are you currently working on anything?

Bob: I put some wildlife cameras in our woods lately and am having lots of fun seeing videos of coyotes and foxes that I didn’t even know were out there. I post some of these on Twitter and Facebook. I am very slowly working on a new book about pets, wildlife, and ghosts, too. Yes, ghosts will be in there.)

 

Bob Tarte, Hoopoe ,T-Shirt, Birdwatcher

"This is as close as I'll ever get to a real live Hoopoe"

Birdtitude: Bob, it was a pleasure having you with us, and we would like to give you a gift from our online apparel shop on Birdtitude.com. You chose the Hoopoe T-shirt "It's All About The Haircut" – what connected you to this design?

Bob: I’ve always loved seeing photos of Hoopoes and wearing this beautiful shirt is as close as I’ll ever come to one. I love the liveliness of the design, and you provide such a wide choice of shirt colors. I wasn’t expecting that.

Birdtitude: You know that Birdtitude.com donates a dollar per each purchase on our site to conservation-oriented organizations. To which organization would you like us to make a donation in your name?

Bob: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Bob Tarte website, interview


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8 Comment

  • I’ve read and cherish Bob’s book. And I highly recommend them all because he truly is hilarious. He’s also a joy to follow on social media if you love gorgeous photographs, animals, birds, and wit.

    Darrelyn Saloom
  • Great interview. Love Bob Tarte’s books and anxiously await the new one. I’ve learned so much from him about birding.

    Tricia Murphy
  • Wonderful interview by my high school friend. He’s a terrific writer and I look forward to his frequent Facebook posts.

    Marybeth Gibson
  • I enjoyed your interview. I am sorry you lost your timneh. I have one timneh and one Congo. They are very precious and messy. Thanks for all your writings. By the way, I still have 4 of the black ducks.

    Penny swanson
  • Always love your posts and the pics of you and the wildlife. Great interview!

    Rhoda

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