A 13-year-old Eric Moore in Tucson with the camera he used to photograph birds. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

Today is Earth Day, a day dedicated to protecting and preserving our world. I hope you will take time today to do a “self-evaluation.” What kind of a steward are you? What are you doing well environmentally? Where do you think you can do better? I’ve always appreciated the phrase, “Think globally, act locally.” Each of us has an impact on our environment, and we all have the responsibility to be wise environmental stewards.

I really can’t describe how my love of nature started at such a young age. I tell people that I started bird watching when I was about 5. Maybe it started earlier, but I really don’t have any memories before age 5 — except for one. I was born in 1959, and my first memory was when JFK was shot — I was 4 at the time.

Moving from New England to Tucson in 1965 certainly helped solidify my love of nature — especially wild birds. Growing up in the Sonoran Desert, I loved catching lizards, horny toads and snakes, and I remember building live traps to catch wild birds. Looking back it is interesting to see how my love of nature developed and grew.

A turning point in my life occurred when an elderly lady in my neighborhood discovered that I had a keen interest in birds. She belonged to the Tucson Audubon Society, and she began to take me to the monthly membership meetings and on Audubon-sponsored field trips throughout southern Arizona.

Her gift of time, and taking an interest in a young boy, had a profound impact on my life. I hope in turn, that I have impacted the lives of many others by helping them create a connection to nature, conservation and preservation, through wild birds.

For many people there is a moment in their life — an “aha” moment, or a “trigger” bird, where all of a sudden, they get turned onto nature and onto birding. I don’t remember a specific moment when this occurred, but I know it was certainly a cumulative effect of repeated exposure to nature by adults who took an interest in me and encouraged my interest in birds.

When I was about 12 or 13, I built a bird blind in my yard where I could sit undetected by the birds visiting my feeding area and photograph them. For several years I did a lot of photography, and I even did sound recordings of bird vocalizations. As you might imagine, most of my teenage friends thought I was a real bird brain. And they were right. I was hooked!

I still have my hand-written records that I started keeping in 1973, shortly before I turned 14. I recorded in a notebook the names of the birds I saw, including the date and location of the sighting. I treasure these old records. I also have a collection of bird books that were given to me by caring adults who recognized my keen interest and passion about birds.

While I spent many years in the grocery industry after earning a bachelor’s degree in business management, my interest in birds never faded. Eventually I got up the courage to quit my full-time job and combine my retail work experience with my love of birds and opened Jay’s Bird Barn in 2003. For more than 17 years now, I have been writing this weekly column in The Daily Courier, which is read by thousands of people.

I am hopeful, that in a small way, I’ve helped others to be more mindful of our environment, to respect wildlife and to be a good steward. Working together, we can make a world of difference.

Until next week, happy birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.