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'Birdchick' says she has 'good days, bad days' due to shutdown

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Sharon Stiteler
Sharon Stiteler, better known as "Birdchick," uses a scope and camera to take close-ups of heron rookery and other birds.
Stephanie Hemphill | MPR file

One of the people who isn't working because of the partial government shutdown is someone who may be familiar to MPR listeners: Sharon Stiteler, better known as "the Birdchick," is a park ranger for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, who is an often called-upon bird expert. 

MPR's Cathy Wurzer spoke with her about how she's holding up nearly four weeks after she was furloughed on Dec. 22, 2018. 

"I have good days, and I have bad days," Stiteler said. 

Stiteler has been furloughed several times before in her career but she says this time it's different. 

"This one has been unpredictable from the very beginning," Stiteler said. "In the 2013 shutdown we had a pretty good idea it was going to last [one] pay period, and we felt confident we were going to get back pay. Then the last two we thought, 'oh this is just a day or two.'" 

Stiteler says she's been more fortunate than some of her colleagues. She doesn't have children or a mortgage. But it's still putting a strain on her finances and she's having to tap into her savings. 

Does it make her want to go into a different line of work? 

"The hilarious thing is I'm a theater major and my mom was super excited when I got the park ranger job because it's steady work," Stiteler said. "But I absolutely love what I do ... and I am willing to wait it out, so that I can do it again." 

Click on the audio player above to hear their conversation.