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Who We Are

Rich MacDonald
Rich MacDonald

Rich MacDonald, along with wife Natalie, is co-owner of The Natural History Center. A lifelong birder, naturalist, and field biologist, Rich is usually found outdoors with binoculars strapped over his shoulder. He has long studied boreal birds and waterbirds, and led bird tours throughout North America and beyond, as well. Rich is a Registered Maine Guide and a Licensed Guide in New York.

In recent years, Rich has served as lead naturalist for Garrison Keillor on each of the six cruises of National Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. Rich’s bibliography started in 1991 with his first publication in Adirondack Life; since that time he has published numerous magazine articles on birds, ecology, and paddlesports.

A dedicated outdoor adventurer, Rich also instructs sea kayaking, white-water kayaking, canoeing, and telemark skiing. All of his educational programs weave local ornithology and ecology into the course content. Not to be outdone, Rich’s three-year-old daughter Anouk recently spotted the Snowy Owl atop a local mountain before her Papa…a proud moment for all.

Rich is a life-long naturalist. Growing up in Western New York, he would regularly hike the Niagara River Gorge from his house to Niagara Falls. At 12 years of age, Rich started banding birds. After college, he settled in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York where his work included studying acid rain, serving as warden for the Four Brothers Islands Nature Preserve on Lake Champlain, and serving as a member of the science staff at The Nature Conservancy.

Throughout his 20 years in the Adirondacks, a unifying theme in Rich's life was birds: monitoring mountain forest birds, including Bicknell's Thrush, which also led him to the Dominican Republic; studying the ten species of nesting waterbirds (Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern) of the Four Brothers Islands; investigating habitat requirements of Spruce Grouse; leading birding trips, both privately and for The Nature Conservancy.

In 1992, Rich led his first birding trip. The Buffalo Ornithological Society came to the Adirondacks with a large group of birders who had a grocery list of boreal birds to check off. One by one, Rich helped them find their target birds. Bicknell's Thrush. Check. Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers. Check, check. Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Two checks. Spruce Grouse. Check. Lincoln's Sparrow, Palm Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackpoll Warbler, Red and White-winged Crossbills. Six more checks. By the end of the trip, all of the species on their wishlist were checked . . . and Rich's reputation as the Birdboy was officially born. (Eventually, on one of his weekly spring birding field trips along the AuSable River, one of the participants decided Rich was too mature to be the Birdboy; he was formally declared the Birdman.)

Ten years later, in 2002, Rich and Natalie Springuel co-led the Gulf of Maine Expedition, a five-month educational sea kayak journey starting in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod, continuing through Boston Harbor, along the 17-mile New Hampshire coast and the entire coast of Maine, up into the Bay of Fundy with its 57-foot tides, finally finishing at Clark's Harbour in southernmost Nova Scotia. After that adventure, Rich relocated to Bar Harbor, Maine, where he continued to do avian research, led bird tours, became a member of the local birding community . . . and married Natalie.

During the summers of 2005, 2006, and 2007, then again in the spring of 2010, Rich served as naturalist for Garrison Keillor on each of his four cruises of his National Public Radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.

Today, in addition to running The Natural History Center, Rich is also working on the fifth edition of Birds of Mount Desert Island, Maine, and Acadia National Park. When you are out on the trails, be sure to say hello to that guy with the well-used and loved Bausch & Lomb binoculars . . . it might just be Rich.

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