Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bird Watching 101

People in the United Kingdom who like to watch birds apparently can get quite obsessive about it -- indeed, they have coined a term “twitching” to describe them.

I enjoy watching birds. There used to be a local chapter of the Audubon Society in town, and I went on several bird watching field trips with them, and I spent time sitting in a lawn chair in our front yard watching with binoculars, and I had a friend who enjoyed bird watching and I took her places – and on one memorable occasion when we stopped at an excellent spot in an old cemetery, I found my legs covered in seed ticks – but I was not a twitcher. Most of my bird watching these days is done looking through the windows of our house.

One of the last poems in my Ogden Nash paperback is about bird watching

Up from the Egg: The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don't need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment so obscure
As ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books—
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching the clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.
I had just read the poem the day before I went to the nursing home to visit the 92-year-old woman from church who is convalescing there from surgery to remove colon cancer but is not recovering as fast as she would like. She wants to go home!

The nursing home has hung bird feeders in front of many of the windows, including hers, and she does enjoy watching the colorful cardinals and the other birds. I was sitting on the love seat under the window sort of at angle and we were discussing the birds. I was half turned around and looking out to my left, and I saw a large black bird sitting on what looked like a tree limb at the edge of one of the buildings, which is barely seen in the photograph from her window. I thought perhaps it was raven because it looked too big to be a crow. Perhaps it was a vulture.

But it didn’t move… and it didn’t move… and so I finally got up and got closer to the class and realized what I was looking at was the profile of a small satellite receiver...

I have trouble with warblers sometimes...
unless they are mobbing the suet feeder and I can get good look at them...

but I am otherwise reasonably good at identifying the birds I see.

At least I thought I was. Now I’m not so sure.

1 comment:

Far Side of Fifty said...

Well that was a great poem. Your yellow headed bird is a real looker