Saturday, September 14, 2019

How to see more birds

Today I have some helpful advice for birders. So gather round, birders. After all, isn't everyone a birder? Who sees movement out of the corner of their eyes and doesn't look up? Who spots a bird flying, nakedly elegant in the sky, free on the wind and yet looks away in disgust? Who glances up at a tree to spy a hawk or an owl looming there, rippling with presence, and turns from it saying "booooring!"

No one, that's who. And if you have evidence to the contrary please just keep it to yourself. I don't want to know.

So since everyone wants to see birds I thought you might like a tip I discovered on how to see them at will.

I discovered this by accident. I guess I'm just lucky.

I was walking over the river and I was thinking about work and how they closed the parking lot without, well, I won't go into it, but I was getting really angry. I started imagining berating the County Manager in a series of angry anonymous emails when, all of the sudden there were geese.


They were flying down the river, in a beautiful formation. There were 14 of them. Each one of them was exactly the same distance from each of their neighbors.

"Aaaaaah." I thought.

I watched them fly off into the distance.

I walked on, my heart calm.

But before long I was thinking about the state of the Nation. And I was just so mad at how we are dealing with this time of crisis and with all the reactionary fascist backsliding. I was mad about a number of things. And I was thinking if I were talking to Joseph Biden I would tell him that...

When an eagle, a bald eagle with an oddly brilliant white head came swooping over me. He wheeled up wildly into the sky, nearly losing his balance, then sailed out to the river. I strained to see every moment of his astonishing visitation.

I realized I wasn't breathing. I breathed. Something sparkled. I heard a call from a thousand years in the past.

I walked on.

And eventually I started thinking about how this all might somehow make a really good blog post if I could find a way to put But then I thought it would hardly matter how good it was. The Internet is a terrible place and it will go out onto the wretched Internet to be wrongly accused, and even more be ignored and disdained. And the horrible thing about the Internet and really with all the ways that we as a people are...

But something was looking at me. I, fuming, had been staring almost blankly at the ground. Sensing the staring I looked up to find a turkey, iridescent bronze, regarding me quizzically. I regarded the turkey quizzically back. We stood there regarding each other quizzically until the turkey got tired of it. I didn't get tired of it. I was smiling. It was a wild turkey. Who wouldn't be honored to be looked at by a turkey?

No one. And if anyone would I don't want to know about them.

But what does all this mean?

What is the trick?

Oh, it's not fancy. I don't know why it works. But I find it strangely reliable. One merely needs to fume, in a quiet, solitary rage, and the birds will come. If you can but find it in yourself to become inordinately, self-righteously furious, birds, extraordinary birds, will visit you, and they will remind you of better things.


  1. You know, I have never, ever in my life heard someone say, "I don't like music." I have heard, "I don't listen to a lot of music," but even that is rare. It seems the same with wild birds. I have disliked a few domestic birds (especially the one that bit my thumb), but in the wild, always they are perfect beings. In my backyard there is a pair of pigeons that do their cute little hooting noises and land either on the phone lines or on the ash tree; there used to be red-tailed hawks nesting in the neighbor's tree, and, lately (what I wanted to write about), there's been a screech owl at night. And guess what it does? It screeches! Sometimes for half an hour at a time, then later in the night repeats. And the thing is that despite the significant volume, despite the shrill, un-pretty call, I have no problem sleeping in its wake, and no problem when it wakes me up from sleep. On the other hand, if human voices were mumbling, or the TV was on in the other room--those sounds would interfere with my slumber, even my concentration when writing or reading. And now we have a double treat because in we have, once again, a hooting owl--the old fashioned deep hooo-hooo every night. It's just terrific!

    1. Horatio Hornblower doesn't like music. He's tone deaf. Of course, he's also a fictional character. Also, just since I'm being difficult, the spouse of a friend of mine has a fear of birds... soooo... there's that. But the owl thing is just right. It makes me think of cats too. It's hard for me to think of them doing wrong in my eyes, like, one neighborhood kitty I was friends with gave me a gift of a neatly half eviscerated baby bunny. It was so evil and grotesque in its way, and yet it was done by a kitty! So adorable and charming!


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