Remember that little quiz I posted a while back? The one asking you to define a list of British birding terms? Well, I have ten more words or phrases that are equally incomprehensible to North American birders. Can you figure out what these mean? Answers will appear next week (below the bird quiz).
Are you a birder? Do you speak English? I would have answered “yes” to both questions, until I saw some lists of British birding terms. Apparently, I speak American, not English. I’m familiar with “twitcher” as a seriously (some say extremely) competitive birder who keeps a life list (and probably several others as well). And I’ve heard the word “jizz” (which comes from GISS, as in General Impression of Size and Shape) used to describe a way of quickly identifying birds. However, I had no idea what most of these words meant, at least in the context of birdwatching.
Yes, you guessed it. I have a list of a ten British birding terms. How many can you correctly define? I should add, “without using the internet”—no cheating! And before the complaints start pouring in, yes, I’m aware that some of these terms are no longer in general usage, although my sources online didn’t mention which ones are obsolete.
Anthropologists, being scientists, are good at taking complex topics and breaking them down into manageable pieces. Whereas my husband views birders as nice-but-slightly-eccentric people, our anthropologist daughter dissects us into pieces—clothing, rituals, language, and the like. I took notes and came up with this list. Although our daughter is not, herself, a birder, I think she knows us pretty well. What do you think?
Clothing The first thing most “normal” people notice about a group of birders is what we’re wearing. A floppy hat is essential for keeping the sun out of our eyes and preventing sunburn. A few hat pins are acceptable decoration, especially if they’re from exceptional birding locations. Beige or green pants and shirt are popular, as are vests with lots of pockets. Tennis shoes are fine, but comfortable hiking boots are preferred. Practicality trumps fashion, but we do have a dress code: nothing flashy, blend in with your surroundings, be prepared to be outdoors. A t-shirt with a bird on it is good, and you get extra points if the design is funny.
Lately, my husband has taken to calling me a “Beak Geek.” I’m not sure whether or not to be insulted at this or take it as a compliment. I thought I’d ask a few other friends if the label fits. They hedged a lot. Hmmm. So I did an internet search and found the following:
You know you are a Birding Fanatic if…
… There is a strange, but distinct correlation between the last time your house was thoroughly cleaned and the development of your birding interest.
… you’re hopeless at remembering people’s names, yet you know the scientific names of all birds ever seen in North America.
… someone is trying to sell you some swamp land in a 3rd world country and you actually are interested! —Bill Kossack
… you have a trip list from your honeymoon.
… for your wedding anniversary he takes you to the Brownsville City Dump to see the Mexican crow! —Keri Dawkins
[At this point I’d like to point out that, while I’ve never been to the Brownsville City Dump (because we’d heard that the Mexican crows aren’t there any more), my loving sweetie did take me to the Ft. Lauderdale dump to look for birds. In addition, we spent our 25th wedding anniversary at a dumpy motel near Alamosa because it was near two wildlife refuges… and he’s not even a birder!]