Done with birds.

As a little kid, you were interested in birds. You liked wild things, wild animals, things that could fly, whatever. So you got interested and learned the names of birds.

But as a teenager you were too cool for that. You lost interest. Bird watching seemed geeky, something a little kid did with innocent enthusiasm. You were done with it.

Then, on a trip to upstate New York as a young husband and father, you surprised yourself. You were on vacation with a wife and two small sons, staying with your wife’s schoolhood girlfriend. You weren’t very sociable, and neither was the girlfriend’s husband. You shot driveway hoops and lazed around, bored.

One afternoon you went for a hike alone in a swampy area and saw a Yellowthroat. Small, with a black eye-mask. You mumbled, “Yellowthroat.” Then thought: “how did I know that?” You shook off the question.

Vacation over, you went back to the Midwest. Time passed. You worked. Your kids grew. Birds went largely unnoticed. Life happened. Then one afternoon you and your wife were walking your dog on a nature trail near a wetland. An unusual bird caught your eye. You mumbled, “Killdeer.”

Surprised, you thought, “how did I know that?” A kind of sandpiper. It was standing tall in shallow water and bright sun. Head high—a bird with good posture and stripes on its neck. You said again “Killdeer.” Wife and dog turned to look at you.

You remembered seeing your first Killdeer in a swampy prairie when you were eleven. You remembered how it was known for its trick of leading you away from its nest by pretending to have a broken wing. An odd fact.A Killdeer bird walking in shallow water.

You all moved on down the trail. But you looked more closely into the trees. On your way out of the woods you noticed in passing a tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Swainson’s Thrush, a Great Blue Heron out on the wetland through the trees. In the far sky a Red-tailed Hawk was circling.

You thought that sometime soon you might come back here. Maybe you’ll see a Scarlet Tanager. Deep red, exotic. That would be a real find.

And the thought hit: for a long while you were done with birds, but maybe they’re not done with you.

2 Responses to “Done with birds.”

  1. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    Absolutely cool. Two-fisted!

  2. Mac says:

    I also got “too cool” for birding but then came back after being blown away by a Pileated Woodpecker where it didn’t belong. It belonged in a forest, not my street. I belonged in the woods too. At least on weekends, and with binoculars. So I went. And you know what? It is “cool.”

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