Another MeadowLarking column from the Fort Sill Tribune. Double click on the images so you can read them better.
FORT SILL, Okla., March 10, 2016 — Do you slow the car on the freeway when you see a big bird circling overhead? Do you pull over on a country road and chase down a little brown bird you’ve never seen before? Do you punctuate walks with a friend by saying, “Oh, I hear a tufted titmouse?”
If so, you might be a birder.
Birders, or bird watchers, are like anybody with a hobby. Some are casual watchers, some engage in “extreme” birding, and the majority span the spectrum.
Don’t think birders are all nerdy Miss Jane Hathaway (from the old “Beverly Hillbillies”). Many are men, especially the competitive watchers who try to beat the record of number of species seen in a calendar year. See “The Big Year” movie for some comedic insight. Better yet, read the book.
I’ve been a birder since I was 9 years old, thanks to an older gentleman across the street who showed me his collection of bird feathers and duck calls. He was, unfortunately (in my childhood mind), a hunter. But he challenged me to learn about birds. It wasn’t long before my nickname in school was “birdbrain.” It was one I was rather proud of. I impressed the boys when I could identify some of the duck species in a hunter’s guide.
I even had a pet house sparrow. Pollyanna was taken from her nest by a boy who didn’t know any better, and I taught her how to catch fat grasshoppers by walking in the fields and catching them as they hopped. (I had to take off the spiny legs for her though. Eew.) Eventually she got the idea and hopped off my finger to catch them herself.
I also taught her how to fly, but one day she flew into my neighbors’ garage and their Siamese cat had her in its mouth when I ran in. My blood-curdling screams scared Mrs. Deere half to death, and the cat as well, because it dropped my bird like it was a hot potato. My shaking the cat frantically may also have had an effect on that.
One day it was time to let Pollyanna go, and though she would return to the back porch expecting food, I kept shooing her away. I didn’t want to give that mean old Siamese another opportunity to pounce on her.
My birding interest has taken a back seat to other activities in certain times of my life, as hobbies tend to do, but I’m rather proud of my life list of species. It’s up to 459 now. Not a huge number as birding goes, but impressive nonetheless.
As far as species names, nonbirders might think we’re being bawdy when we call attention to that titmouse I mentioned, or the brown booby (it’s a big seabird) or the American woodcock.
Oh, and don’t think you’re being sly when you send an unsuspecting newbie on a snipe hunt. It really does exist. (Look it up.)
So even if you’re not a “birder” you have probably noticed the air is filled with birdsong as the trees break out their new leaves and flowers.
The most common songs: cardinal, Carolina wren, eastern bluebird, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, and of course, the songster of the South: the mockingbird. More will be here soon from warmer climes. Keep your eyes peeled. And your cats inside.
Photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
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Contact: cindy at cindymcintyre.com