Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What We Will Do When E. Retires

Big Pat has gotten into birdwatching the last year or two, not only and perhaps not primarily because of the birds but because of the walking, the outdoors, and the intelligence and good nature of the birders. In short, he likes the scene.

Part of that scene played out tonight at the Northbrae Community Church where local birders celebrated last year's "big year" during which some of them did a kind of ocular marathon . For 365 days they strove to identify as many bird species as possible in either Alameda or Contra Costa county. (Separate lists for separate people for separate counties. Ah, the individualism, the suburban rivalry.)

If you said you saw it, people agreed you saw it. Pat, whose skepticism fits him like a particularly becoming leotard, providing both style and support, told me that he has no doubt that the birders -- his birders -- did not report birds they did not see. Indeed, there is a kind of group policing that goes on that I had not previously understood.

What you do if you see a rare, or even a pretty interesting, bird if you are a friendly and community-oriented birder is text, email, phone all your bird buddies and say, "He's shaking his little feathery tush at me right now and unless I'm mistaken he's getting ready to yodel. Get down here to the slough."

And they get down to the slough and dammit, there he is.

Or not. Sometimes no bird.

So I guess some birders could be cheaters and sick taunting bastards on top of that. But I think not. I give to the bird folk tonight my highest compliment. E. would like not just what you do but you. I look forward to Pat making the introductions -- whenever I get the girl to retire.

That will be a sighting worth text, email and phone call to all my friends. Come quick, I'll say, before she changes her mind and flies off to work.

Note: Up there at the top of the post: a Dusky Warbler, a very special bird from last year spotted (I think) in both counties. The room trembled to see.
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