“I have no academic training in ornithology. I’ve been a nature enjoyer since childhood, began bird watching during Hamilton, and gradually morphed into an obsessed birder by about 1995,” Caldwell said.
Birding is not just a flight of fancy for him. Caldwell studied classic college ornithology texts and other resources, and learned one-on-one from professional ornithologists. He has encountered more than 4,500 bird species, about 40% of the world’s birds and, as a bonus, a host of marvelous mammals. His rarest sighting? The Alagoas Antwren; fewer than 50 remain.
“I don’t just watch birds. I’ve served as an officer in an Audubon chapter, as a board member and journal editor for the Ohio Ornithological Society, a member of the Ohio Bird Records Committee, and state editor for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count,” he said. “I’m also currently a board member of Black Swamp Bird Observatory. So, I guess I’m somewhere in the knowledgeable amateur to semi-pro range as an ornithologist.”
Since retirement from a career in the environmental field, Caldwell has traveled extensively, birding in most of the U.S. hotspots in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, with eight trips to Alaska. “I took my first international trip, to Ecuador, in 2011 and since, have returned to South America eight times. Plus, two trips to Central America, three to Africa, one to Thailand, and one to Australia,” he said.
Caldwell majored in chemistry at Hamilton and knew he wanted to work in an environmental testing laboratory. After college, he earned an M.S. in soil and water science at the University of New Hampshire and an M.B.A. in management at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
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After years working in corporate testing labs, in 1995 he made the radical change to real estate investment, buying, rehabbing, and reselling rundown houses. Until retirement in 2007, he was a small-scale home renovation contractor, The Handy Guy.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native said he’ll remain active in birding and avian research/education/conservation organizations. “I will continue overseas travel as long as I’m able,” he noted. There’s always that other 60% of bird species to track down.