I have been a birder for a little over a year now. Birding is a wonderfully dorky hobby. To be a birder, you must first get a birder’s badge: a big ole’ pair of binoculars that hang around your neck thus ostracizing you from the regular people who use parks for sweating or picking up their dog’s poop. You will also need a book filled with pictures of the birds much closer and in better detail than you can ever hope to see through your binoculars. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to find one at Half Price Books. Based on the quantity of birding books there, it is a short-lived hobby for many. Less necessary is the birding uniform.
Like day-glow exercise pants for yoga or jerseys with famous numbers and other people’s names for playing basketball, I don’t much see the point in buying expensive clothes to do sweaty things outdoors. I’ve always bucked the established birding trend by wearing jeans and a denim shirt when I bird but as of late my outfit has had to evolve. The birders I was standing across from didn’t seem too keen on the change.
They were dressed in their early morning finest. Floppy hats with various screen panels, moisture wicking shirts in faded blues and dull greens, khaki shorts and hiking boots for the well-maintained pedestrian trail we were all using. Binoculars around their necks and eyes resting on the far-away tree line cemented their status for me: these were Birders of the Master Level. Watch out.
My denim outfit didn’t seem to bother them though. Far more concerning was the baby in the stroller.
Birding and babies don’t really go together. Birds are small, and hard to see, and even up close the differences between species can be subtle. Babies are loud, impossible to ignore (at least when its one’s own baby) and worst of all, just as fidgety as the birds. My baby was doing pretty well. He’d woken up a bit early from his nap to find himself strolling along in a mobile bed, but he was not happy with standing still. Each time I stopped moving to glance at a furtive magnolia warbler or count a flock of cedar waxwings, squawks of a different species emanated from the nest not two feet away from me.
Really we were lucky. That morning at Mills Pond there was also a color-run, in which people wearing white clothes run around in circles while other people throw fistfuls of powder at them that change their bland apparel into something more akin to the feathered beings above them. A practice as mystical as spring migration, to be sure.
Normally such an event would scare away all but the most casual birders, but today was the perfect storm of outdoor activities. With the baby watching fast moving brightly colored people, the papa was able to watch fast moving brightly colored birds. It was a wonderful morning.
Birds are so dynamic during migration season. We saw a yellow warbler, bright as a banana with streaks like he’d been bruised, a black and white warbler which is striped like a zebra but walks up and down branches like a woodpecker, and an American redstart, a bird so beautiful it bears googling. It seems birds use this brief time of fantastic weather to migrate great distances outdoors. A fantastic spectacle to be sure. All sorts of regularly disparate individuals all in place, putting on a show. An event unlike any seen in nature, well except for the color-runners and the jersey-wearers and yoga-pants and the birders dressed like sparrows.
While we watched them I kept wondering if my little lion actually understood the birds better than we did. After all, they were all watching these strange brightly colored mammals who’d all emerged to preen in the fine weather. Who’s to say what he was thinking. I hope he appreciated the variety, I certainly did. All I know is that I’m thankful that our skies have more the pigeons, and it’s nice that there’s more than one way to watch people sweat.
Diamondcrabs and Mangoes: Interstellar Spring Book 2 comes out next week! I’ll let y’all know when it drops.
Thanks for reading!