I have a friend who is a birder. When he first told me that he took excursions to Central Park every Saturday morning during spring migration season to catch what was coming up from down South, I was baffled. But over the course of our 20-year friendship, I have come to appreciate the mystery of birdwatching. So while I have never become a bird groupie, I thoroughly understand the pleasure that comes from a successful sighting; the thrill of spying the bird that seemed to get away. And the overall satisfaction of a day spent with warm-blooded creatures that have the power of flight.
And because I know the excitement of seeing something rare and unexpected, I no longer blink an eye if we are driving along, and come to a sudden stop because he spots something in the sky, on the road or in a tree. As a result, I have picked up minimal knowledge of being able to distinguish terns from gulls, and plovers from sandpipers. But basically, I’m a rube.
Nonetheless, if I’m going on vacation to someplace that is known for some exotic, colorful bird species, I most definitely pack my binoculars. I know I have been very lucky to have seen lilac-breasted rollers, spoonbill cranes, secretary birds, and malachite kingfishers.
So on a recent trip to Sherwood Island State Park in Connecticut, my friend brought the car to a sudden roadside stop to check out bufflehead ducks. On the walk to the beach, he pointed out Canada geese and coots, and then off he went with his binoculars to see what else he could find.
He came back with a report that he had seen a few more buffleheads, some mergansers and long-tailed ducks. For a 30-minute stop in 30-degree weather, it was definitely gratifying. Meanwhile, I had ended up walking along the beach checking out the shells. I guess nature calls differently to each of us.