Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Birds of a Feather

I’m an avid birder. My fascination with bird life is a fairly recent hobby, started about five years ago. I’m proud to say that I have 68 birds on my life list. The most recent was a pileated woodpecker sighted in Door County Wisconsin.

It all started with this book. Every year beginning on January 1st, another Big Year begins. It’s a full calendar year marathon to see who can sight the most birds. The Big Year follows three men in 1998 as they battle their way across deserts, bodies of water, and mountains to come in first. At the end of this particular year, one man (can’t tell you which one) counted 765 different species. The story is funny and nuts and thoroughly engaging.

Which brings me to another story told to me yesterday about a man who taught his yellow crested cockatoo to sit on his shoulder. One spring day, he forgot that the parrot was on his shoulder and went outdoors. The bird promptly flew off, ignoring the man’s special whistle. The summer went by without any sign of the cockatoo. Fall came and the man was outside when he spotted a flock of pigeons flying overhead. One of the flockers (is that a word?) had a yellow headcrest.

He whistled his special cockatoo call. The bird left the group of other birds and descended.
And that’s how the man got his bird back.


Sheila Connolly said...

I've never been a birder, although I've enjoyed watching a few birdfeeders, and I keep a copy of Sibley's book by my window.

But a couple of years ago I visited Australia and I was shocked. Oh, look, that's a parrot sitting on the picnic table there, and there's a whole bunch in the tree. There's a flock of cockatoos grazing on the grass twenty feet away. And don't trip over that ibis, standing by your feet. I felt like Alice after she had fallen down the rabbit hole--this can't be real.

caryn said...

I'm a casual birder. If we are off for a day in the woods we take our binoculars and when we travel we do. I do keep a live list though, and a journal of where and when I 've seen whatever. But we don't make special birding outings. I keep two feeders plus suet and then August-October a hummingbird feeder.
The books sounds interesting though, I think I'll look for it at the library.

Camille Minichino said...

Do I sense another hobby mystery series on the way by Deb Baker?

Deb Baker said...

Sheila, I'm so jealous!
Caryn, I have so many bird feeders, they have to wear helmets when making landings. I counted 23 turkeys the other day.
Camille, Gretchen Birch, my doll collecting protagonist, is just like me (imagine that). She hunts for rare species on Phoenix's mountains.

Monica Ferris said...

I am barely a casual birder -- my eyes aren't the best, so I have learned to listen for bird songs. Did you know birds have regional accents? Minnesota chickadees go, "Tee-bee," while Grand Canyon ones go "Tee-tee-bee."

There's a saying, "Nothing is a friendly as a cat with cold feet." I imagine the same could be said for a cockatiel living outdoors when autumn approaches.

camille@minichino.com said...

I've met Gretchen ...funny that I forgot about the bird part. I remember the wonderful aunt and the book excerpts ... but no wildlife.

I'm like Woody Allen, who says, "Some people are one with nature, but I am TWO with nature."

Felicia Donovan said...

Great post, Deb. You know I have dogs, but I bet you didn't know there's a parrot in the house as well. He has a bizzare habit of mimicking my daughter as she calls "Ma!" I can't tell you how many times he's stumped me, so accurate is his call. It's the case of the "Parrot Who Cried Wolf" or in our case, "Ma!"

Living in the woods of New England, we have an abundance of beautiful, native birds. I'd like to say I can identify them at the feeders, but unfortunately, we've had to take some of the feeders down because of too close a call with some wild animals that decided to visit instead. Yesterday, the dogs chased off a huge buck that had come to visit.

Felicia Donovan

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


I thought of you yesterday when a magnificent group of turkeys waddled past my window. They were resplendent in shades of brown, tan and gold. Majestic!