Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I found this meme—a list of questions for birders—on Cogresha's birding blog. Don't look at it; it'll put my blog to shame. Okay, go ahead—you'll like it, I promise.
Here are my answers to Cogresha's thought-provoking questions. I'm curious as to how others would answer these—feel free to share your thoughts!
Questions for Birders
1. What is the coolest bird you have seen from your home?
My most memorable at-home sighting was my very first sighting of a Townsend's Warbler about a year and a half ago, just after I started getting into birds. There I was, coming home from some errand and right in front of me appeared this amazing black-and-yellow bird unlike any I had ever seen before. It was the most exotic-looking little bird I had ever seen in the wild. At that time, I had no idea that such cool birds could exist in my lame little suburb. Now I know that Townsend's Warblers are regular winter visitors here, but I still get a buzz whenever I see one.
2. If you compose lists of bird species seen, what is your favorite list and why?
I've only recently started keeping formal lists of my sightings, as I wrote about here. For me, the only thing better than the happy memories of past birding trips is the anticipation of upcoming ones. So I'll answer this the same way Frank Lloyd Wright responded when asked what his favorite building was: "My next one."
3. What sparked your interest in birds?
What turned me into an official birder was my training routine for the Orange County Marathon. I did all my long training runs through Talbert Nature Reserve, and down to the mouth of the Santa Ana River. I only allowed myself to stop running if I was in life-threatening pain, or if something really unusual showed up. The race would have gone better if I hadn't chosen such a birdy training ground: during my long runs, I had my first sightings of a Black Skimmer, and my first local sighting of a Bald Eagle. I ended up taking a lot of walking breaks.
4. If you could only bird in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
I'm not touching this one with a ten-foot pole—may none of us ever have to make this choice!
5. Do you have a jinx bird? And why is it jinxed?
No jinx bird—just a lot I haven't seen yet, and a lot I'd like to see better.
6. Who is your favorite birder, and why?
I'm in no way qualified to judge who has the best ornithological credentials. But I am in deep awe of my first (and so far, only) official birding instructor, Sylvia Gallagher. Not only does she teach birding classes at every level, several days a week; she writes about our local birds and does bird embroidery that's mind-boggling (anatomical detail that rivals Sibley's drawings— in silk thread!). She's also politically active and active in our local Audubon chapter. And she's a great—and demanding—teacher. I noted with glee that an intermediate-level birding class offered by a neighboring chapter covered some of the same topics we slaved over in Sylvia's BEGINNING birding class. To her, if you can tell a penguin from an ostrich, you can surely distinguish a Cassin's from a Western Kingbird!
7. Do you tell non-birders you are a birder? What do they say to you when they find out?
Absolutely, if there's an opening for in in the conversation—I think of it as "birding evangelism": the more people who can be engaged in the natural world and made sensitive to its needs, the better. Most non-birders are politely curious about it; a typical response is to say they have an uncle/boss/neighbor who's really into birds. Quite a few also ask bird ID questions (e.g. "I saw this big yellow bird in my back yard; what do you think it was?"). If people aren't interested, of course I'll change the subject.