Tom Stephan, Raptor Habitat Technician and Arborist – Biographies – MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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Tom Stephan, Raptor Habitat Technician and Arborist

Occupation: Raptor habitat technician, Tree-soil relations arborist

Background: More than half a century ago, Tom’s grandmother worked diligently to bring absent bluebirds back to her Ohio lane. Her efforts were successful and not long after, she became president of her local Audubon chapter. Inspired by his grandmother’s attraction to birds, Tom soon learned to identify all the local birds in the canyons of La Jolla Shores.

His interest in birds of prey began in 1962 while conducting research for a his second-grade wild animal report. Tom came across a 1940 National Geographic article written by falconer and biologists John and Jean Craighead. Their story of trapping, training and hunting with falcons captivated him and began a lifelong enthusiasm for raptors.

Tom’s newfound obsession influenced Tom to become a regular at a local pet shop. During one of his daily visits, he discovered that a male kestrel had been turned into the shop. To his delight, the owners gave Tom the bird to take home. This new friendship inspired him to search high and low to observe birds of prey. By his teen years, he was an agile tree climber, climbing every eagle, hawk and owl nest tree that he could find. His knowledge and skills in maneuvering up and down trees gave him an easy in to becoming a tree trimmer, and later a certified arborist.

While bidding a trimming job for an elderly lady, Tom noticed that she had an owl nest box hanging low in her large sycamore rather close to her kitchen window. She mentioned that her late husband had installed the box and was disheartened that it was never occupied. Tom offered to properly install the box for her.

Three days later, Tom got a call from the elderly lady. She was delighted to share with him that a pair of barn owls had began nesting in her owl box. She repeatedly thanked him, mentioning that her late husband would have been so happy. The feelings of bringing joy to this woman gave him great pleasure. This was the first owl nest box he had installed.

Now, over 23 years later, Tom has more than 30,000 owl boxes under his belt! He’s very grateful that his passionate hobby has led him to such a fulfilling career. He spends his days sharing an enthusiasm and knowledge of nature and its inhabitants with people around the world. This is Tom’s definition of success.

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