Ornithological memory.

I’m an average guy. I don’t have a photographic memory. Or an eidetic memory, whatever the hell that is. (I’ve heard the term bandied about by wise-offs who say they have it).

But I do seem to have an ornithological memory. I don’t understand it. But when I see a bird in a bird book, I remember it.

I have looked through bird books since grade school. I guess I liked the variety. There was no variety in the birds I saw outside, just pigeons and sparrows.

When I was a kid, sitting in the backseat as the family drove out of the city to a country farmstand, I saw a teardrop shaped bird on a wire and said “Mourning Dove.” My dad thought I was nuts. I sorta did, too.

Man o' War

Man o' War

In Florida I saw a swallow-tailed, eagle-sized bird, and said “Man o’ War.” That was when I was ten. It’s been my story throughout life.

A few years ago, on a rare European trip, I was in Oslo and saw a bird on a lawn. I’d never seen its kind in my life. I said “White Wagtail.” Where the hell did that come from?

An ornithological memory.

Once I see a bird in a book, it’s locked in. I knew I was looking at a Loggerhead Shrike in Muir Woods near San Francisco. In Jamaica I saw a really weird hummingbird and said, “doctor bird” to my wife. She said,”huh?”

I forget a lot of things. But I don’t forget a bird. Not just USA birds, but Eurasian, African & Pacific birds. Rollers and Hoopoes and Green Woodpeckers.

I guess the two-fisted thing to do might be to go out into the world, and try to sight all the birds I’ve seen in books. Yeah, maybe not.

The idea behind  “two-fisted bird watching” is simply that you defy anybody’s stereotype. I don’t want to get gung ho about checking birds off a mental life list. I’m not against it; I’m just saying that’s not what “two-fisted” was intended to mean.

It was intended to say that birders can be rugged, beer drinking, motorcycle riding, sports loving, weight lifting, pizza loving, non-conformist, surprisingly well informed bad asses.

TF cyclist

Not the dweebs that they’re often shown to be in the public imagination. They’re not silly; they’re Indiana Jones.

You remember him, I hope. It’s been a few years since his movies were big, but c’mon, you gotta remember Indy’s revolver, bullwhip and arcane archaeological knowledge. Like I remember birds.

Maybe some day the birds in my memory will start flying away. Migrating to a place where I can’t find them. If that happens, I won’t be me any more.

Meanwhile, I just saw a picture of a bird with a blue head and orange chest. It was on another website. There was no caption. But I said to myself, “Lazuli Bunting.”

I don’t need captions. I’ve got an ornithological memory, and hope to keep it.

5 Responses to “Ornithological memory.”

  1. Marc says:

    As for the eidetic…I never before heard that word spoken, or saw that word in print until in your TFBW blog, and that same week in the NYT book review, applied to the work of the painter Joan Mitchell, among my favorites of the second tier abstract expressionists.

  2. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    Hey, Abe Zion, thanks for letting us know about your new blog. We checked it out and are impressed with your photographs. Also, the “7 minute” idea is appealing. It doesn’t take much longer than that to get the point of just about anything. For those who’d like to take a look:


    Good luck to a good photographer and a guy who’s got a way with words.

  3. abe zion says:

    I too have an eidetic memory; just can’t seem to remember your last name.
    Seriously though, I stand in awe of your ornitho-taxonomic lexicon. Your blog has inspired me to start a local blog for Southern California where I live. It certainly poses no threat of competition to Two-Fisted. I humbly request your assistance in promoting my “7 Minute Bird Blog.” I earnestly solicit any comments or criticisms for my fledgling site. Also, any mention of my blog on Two-Fisted would be appreciated!
    Respectfully, Abraham Zion

  4. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    One-fisted? You’ve gotta be kidding. We’ve heard of your book, Sandy. You are the definition of a two-fisted birdwatcher. Enjoy the pizza.

  5. sandy komito says:

    After hearing what “two-fisted” was intended to mean, I considered the second half of your list: “pizza-loving, non-conformist, surprisingly well informed bad-asses.” and I was immediately moved to go out and order a New York style pizza……and I felt good.

    You’ll notice I left off the rugged, beer drinking, motorcycle riding part and wondered–can I just be “one-fisted?” After all, my first book was entitled “Birding’s Indiana Jones.” That should give me some standing….