I was so excited—I was flying to Washington to visit our daughter and her family. Of course, the main point of the trip was to hug our baby granddaughter, but I was also hoping to do a bit of birding while in a different state. The problem was, I didn’t know a single birder near Everett (north of Seattle), I didn’t know where the good birding sites were, and even if I did, the roads were unfamiliar enough (and traffic crazy enough) that I was sure I’d get lost.
Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park, by Marie Winn
There are a number of books that tell stories about nature. They describe birds and their behavior in ways that are accurate, but sadly boring. The reader is left thinking, “I guess you had to have been there.”
This book is different. Author Marie Winn writes with a gentle charm, leaving the reader smiling and content, yet yearning for more.
Winn starts with a lengthy prologue that sets the scene. I admit that I’m not overly fond of New York City, and I’ve never been to Central Park. Yet, after reading this book, I find myself eager to go and see for myself. In particular, I’d like to explore that portion of the park known as the Ramble, where one may spot migrating warblers in the elms and oaks and feed the birds at the Azalea Pond.
This is not another list of what to buy your favorite birder for Christmas. There are plenty of lists like that already; every birding magazine and website seems to have one. Most suggestions seem more helpful to the makers of the products featured than they are to the gift giver… or the recipient.
See, the problem is that birding doesn’t really require a lot of stuff. Sure, you spend your wad on good optics, and you need a field guide or two. But one of benefits of birdwatching is that you don’t need a lot of gear. Once you’re set, you can get on about the business of watching birds, which is really the point. Birders do not collect birds—they collect sightings of birds.
Not to miss an opportunity, many manufacturers have come up with “birding accessories”—things like special tote bags for your book and binos, many-pocketed vests, volumes on where to go birding, and journals with bird drawings on the cover. I’m sure all those are useful, but they’re certainly not regarded as must-haves. An old fanny pack, internet access, and a 99¢ notepad work just as well.
Instead of telling you what to buy for your gift list birder, I’m going to make a suggestion for a gift you can’t buy. No one ever said that gifts have to cost a lot of money.
I loved this poem, and I hope you do too. In fact, I’d recommend you read the entire book, but it appears to be out of print. However, there are collection of Nash’s poetry available, so I’ll recommend you read those instead.
You Can’t Get There from Here
by Ogden Nash
Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I’m both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don’t need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there’s no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?