*Feature Photo: Christian Hagenlocher on Cameron Pass in Colorado before heading north into Wyoming to visit a Sage Grouse Lek near Lander. (Christian Hagenlocher / Pitchengine Communities) * (Lander, Wyo.) - Christian Hagenlocher was working on a television documentary for PBS up in Montana when he was suddenly laid off. The act caught him off guard. The former biology teacher with a life-long interest in birding decided that was an opportunity for him to follow his passion. And follow it he has. He created The Birding Project and embarked on an EPIC (Educate, Preserve, Inspire and Connect) Big Year. The Maine native who has also lived in Texas, Vermont, Seattle and St. Louis (his father is a pilot), he originally took a high school teaching job after graduation from Principia College. He taught biology a total of four years in the St. Louis area when the PBS gig came up. "In all, I've traveled 16,000 miles across 20 states. It's been an epic adventure," he said. When asked how he has been supporting himself, he replied that he's taken odd jobs "here and there on the road from washing dishes to teaching in a high school for a couple of days." Hagenlocher said he was drawn to Wyoming by the lure of the Greater Sage Grouse, which he had never seen in person before. "I've been a birder since reading my grandmother's birding books. It turned into a passion for me,"he said. "And I really wanted to see sage grouse." That's what landed Christian in Lander, and to the folks at Maven Outdoors. "Cade (Maestas), Brandon (Weaver) and Mike (Lilygren) have been great to work with, and they are going to be one of my sponsors," he said. "I borrowed one of their spotting scopes and took it out Thursday morning and it was fantastic." On Wednesday, Hagenlocher went out to a Lek south of town. "I slept in my car until 4 the next morning when I heard the grouse becoming active. I got some great photos and watched the mating ritual dance." He said it was the most exciting thing he's experienced on his journey. He also made time to meet with other birders in the area, including Del Nelson in Hudson. Because of his interest in biology and wanting to share his adventure with others, Hagenlocher has kept a blog of his birding adventure on The Birding Project.
His goal was to record 700
bird species in this Epic year and so far he's found over 400.
After leaving Lander, Hagenlocher will head to the Florida Everglades via
Colorado, Texas and the southeastern states.
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*Christian Hagenlocher self-portrait *