Whether or not you are in a stressful job, transitioning through a life crisis, or just stuck in a rut, sometimes you just have to get out of the house and (as my father says) “blow the stink off.” Otherwise, you can lose track of the days and where you are in life. You wander around the forest, asking everyone you see, “Where are the trees? That is, until someone taps you on the shoulder and says, “Let’s go birding.” The words I cannot resist, and unless there is a Major Household Event going on, or an illness, the weekend tasks that were planned are jettisoned for a pair of binoculars and a bagel.
My friend Suzanne and I blew the stink off last weekend at the Edwin B. Forsythe Sanctuary, fondly known among birders as Brigantine, or just “Brig.” You can walk, bike, crawl or drive around an eight-mile dirt road where you might see just about anything. Not knowing what’s out there is what makes birding so addictive, and also why it has become so popular over the years. It is a bloodless hunt; the discovery of something we might or might not see; an invitation for the unexpected to enter into our lives.
I have been birding for many years and consider my expertise to be at a sliding scale intermediate level. Like anything else, the more you get out and bird, the better you are at identifying them. I hesitate to say “better birder,” because I have known individuals who are intent only on seeing “their” bird to add to the list, and will stop at nothing, including endangering an individual bird. They may be great at identifying, but they are NOT better birders. (I once walked away from an opportunity to see a Mourning Warbler (which would have been a life bird for me) when it landed in a popular spring birding site in NJ, exhausted and hungry after a long migration, and a crowd of excited birders had circled around to get a look. There was no rest for that bird. I was rewarded later in the day when I was standing alone near a stand of shrubs, resting my foot on a stump, and one popped out in front of me. A gift).
Every year I must review the warblers. It is not uncommon to hear “Yellow-breasted Chat” on my Shuffle Songs Ipod, right after Jason Mraz or just before Mozart. And since I do not live near the coast, there are slim opportunities to develop any expertise with shorebirds in general, especially the peeps, those tiny dove-gray, beige and white balls running to and fro upon the beach.
Nevertheless, I judge each birding trip on its own merit. I am happy to watch a band of crows, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird build a nest, or listen to a White-throated Sparrow sing its “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody….” And what could be better than to do what you love than to do it with a good friend?
Here are some of the birds from our trip to Brig, including a Life Bird for me, a Salt-Marsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
Wanna go birding?