As a field biologist, nature photographer and an 11-year-old at heart, I've had a lot of close encounters with wildlife: Mountain lion stare-downs, rattlesnake strikes, watching spiders crawl in your friend's ear, almost stepping on black bear cubs ... the usual stuff. (The spider incident haunts me to this day, and is the reason I will never, ever sleep without earplugs. I advise you to do the same.)
I've worked a couple field seasons in the Truckee, California area. Housing can be a little sketchy in seasonal gigs, and in Truckee, we had a real gem, a real rarity: Something called a house. This is ridiculously glamorous in the field biology world. Not only did we get to dwell in civilized quarters (please note that this didn't mean that WE were civilized), but we also had a backyard that butted up next to Tahoe National Forest. We set up some feeders and a pretty ghetto drip system near the porch in an attempt to lure in some feathered friends.
I'll call myself a birder and I suppose I'm a bird photographer too, but for anyone who's seen "The Big Year," I'm not THAT kind of birder, though many of my peoples are. My attention span won't allow that sort of commitment.