Twitchers and Dudes

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

There’s nothing quite as good for curing the blues as a little birdsong. I stepped out onto my screened porch yesterday morning, feeling a little down and out, and was virtually assaulted by the tweeting, trilling, and warbling of a bevy of birds! My heart literally sang. The annoying cloud that had been threatening to spoil another day lifted, and it was as though a small angel band had encamped in the oak trees and pine thicket just behind our home. I listened as the concerto wound its way up to what I thought was a final crescendo, but then it started all over again. Happy sounds. Sweet music.
Bill and I do enjoy birdwatching, something that is really enhanced when you know what to call the birds that you see. We have one little book which identifies Birds of the East, and that is our only responsible source. We are pretty sure we know a Cardinal and a Blue Jay when we see one; a crow, a woodpecker, and a bluebird (but not a Robin, which is sometimes really hard to tell from other grey birds), and these are just about our entire combined encyclopedic knowledge of the avian world. When other lovely, yet unidentified, feathered friends started to visit our yard, we attempted to learn their names. “Oh, look at that cute little bird with the two black feathers on his head, and see the way his little tail turns up in the back,” was much more convoluted than, “Aha! A tufted titmouse is visiting the feeder!” Not only did we discover the pure delight in being smart enough to tell a house wren from a sparrow, but we found that our little book also explained how to identify bird song. Very Cool.
Later today as we lunched on the porch, we enjoyed watching a single female hummingbird race back and forth from our red plastic feeder with the tulip-like dining platforms—back and forth, back and forth—to the tiny cup-like nest at very end of a branch close enough for us to see her feeding “baby.” Then an earsplitting chorus erupted from a tree near the garden shed. Within seconds, it was answered from the other side of the yard, in a tree just over the fence. Stereo!! An echo or two Whip-poor-wills? Though these brown beauties usually call at night, somebody had their days and nights mixed up!
If you share our exciting fair-weather hobby, perhaps you have seen (or heard) a Golden Finch here in Georgia? Once and only once have we seen these gorgeous canary-like birds outside an aviary. Our friends, Ken and Jean Rogers, buy little bags of mealy worms to entice these stunning creatures, and it was during a visit to their home in Peachtree City that we were treated to the sight of more than thirty of these little yellow birds feeding merrily, almost dancing in their eagerness to share the feast our friends had so thoughtfully provided. I immediately drove to the wild bird store to purchase these exceptional lures, but Alas! When I saw that they were as dear as the jewels of the Queen of Sheba, I decided to content myself with that singular vision! Who knew specialty worms were so pricey?
Another great adventure in birdwatching occurred late one spring afternoon right in our own front yard. My husband and I watched the amazing coming-of-age saga of one tiny Bluebird. The last to leave his cozy nest in the conical-shaped house Bill had made, his mother had to resort to refusing to deliver worm morsels in order to teach him to fly. From our comfortable porch rockers, we first spied mama bird tease him onto the perch. Then calling to him from the ground, she coaxed him to join her. With the grace of a new colt, baby bird stumbled off his ledge, and drifted to the ground, landing on concrete just beside the tire on our van. Ignoring his mother’s cries from the plush lawn, baby boy bird (it could hardly have been a girl), toddled off and under the vehicle. Sigh. Just when you call them to dinner, they are stuck under the chassis of a car. That’s the way it always was at my house, anyway. Dad would do his best with Lava soap in the kitchen, while Mom waited for him to wash the grease down her sink!
I digress. Long story short. Four exciting hours later, having saved the kid from a marauding cat and having chased two nosy squirrels up a tree, Mama, joined earlier by Papabird, saw their son into the safety of the lowest branches of a little scrub oak on the far side of our yard. What a show! This was as tense a cliffhanger as I have ever seen! A grand love story like no other! Such potential for tragedy. Such love and concern exhibited by parents for a struggling, wayward child. And such joy, when Bill and I could finally breathe great sighs of relief and move back into the house and to our own dinner.
As much as I love birds, their cheery songs, and funny antics, I am, however, not a “twitcher.” Twitcher is the often derisive name for an obsessive birder who annoys serious birders with their “tick lists.” A tick list is just the roll a birder keeps, noting each and every bird they see on an expedition; a “Life list” records one’s entire catalogue of sightings over the period of a serious birder’s life. Seriously.
I am delighted to announce that I am what those same serious, but usually kind, birdwatchers call a “dude.” Dudes are people who enjoy the beauty of their surroundings so very much that they are happy even if they are unable to add new, rare and exotic birds to their journals. Actually, I don’t even have a tick list. Oh well. I just love me some Birds!

Signed,

A Dude

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