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Birding Blind. Photo by Margo D. Beller.


Despite the best effort of advertisers to make those of us of a certain age think we can stay young forever, there are times when you know you aren’t.

Mine came after a Saturday eye exam.

I was a near­sighted child who became far­sighted as an adult. Sometimes, I am a little too far­sighted – worrying about things to come that I can’t control.

Like the other body parts, eyes age. The last time I saw the eye doctor, she decided to put drops in to dilate my pupils for a closer exam.

My eyes turned out to be fine, but coming into the sunshine, I was literally struck blind. My husband had to run to the car for my sunglasses. It was after this that we went birdwatching, as usual, on a sunny Saturday.

I can’t think of a more essential body part when birding than the eyes. I fear the day that I can’t see well when I want to do something I enjoy.

I have met older birders who sit in one place and wait for the birds to come to them because they can’t walk very well. There may be blind or deaf birders out there, but I’ve never seen one.

It is hard enough to find a small bird in a fully leafed­out tree with binoculars and two good eyes. It is a major challenge to find them when everything you see is surrounded by a corona of fuzziness.

I’ve come to depend on my ears and knowledge of bird shape and habit more than my eyes, but on this day I discovered not being able to focus on details such as color and streaking put me at a severe disadvantage. At one point, MH and I were in a bird blind, a structure designed to allow you to look out without scaring anything. We were looking down from a small height to see if anything was skulking around in the brush.

Bird blind, I thought. I’m a birder blind. Great.

Going from sunny meadow (where I had to use my sunglasses) to shady woods, I could barely see at all. When something big flew from a tree at our approach, I had to depend on MH for a description. Based on that, and the vague shape I saw, I could only guess we had spooked a roosting owl – likely a barred owl. Barred owls can be active during the day. What I saw was too big to be a screech owl and not as white as a barn owl. It might also have been a great horned owl. I’ll never know.

Meanwhile, MH had managed to turn his foot the wrong way and had to walk slowly. So he was limping. And I was nearly blind. Not exactly what the commercials portray of the golden years.

The fuzziness is gone now, and I can identify the familiar birds in my backyard just fine. I am having a harder time ignoring my far­sightedness.