Nov. 20, 2015

Tell it to the Birds


For those fascinated by extreme forms of obsession, birders are an interesting study. They are similar to other types of amateur anal retentives such as lepidopterists,  mycologists  and  astronomers.  At least there appears to be more mental stimulation from these hobbies than there is from becoming a sports bore, gun maniac or motor-head.  ‘To each his own.’ It is at least healthier than drinking yourself to death.

How to tell when you are hooked

If you find yourself out at midnight, cold and drenched with rain, hoping to see an owl, the cult has got you.

When you tick the boring small brown bird on your list after searching every habitat in Costa Rica, it is too late.

If you have developed the ability to imitate various bird-calls so well, that you are in danger of getting into a fight with a furiously territorial woodpecker or have been ravished by an amorous vulture, it is a tell tale sign.

Over dinner, you are easily drawn into happy conversation about birding trips of yore. It is too late!

If your heart pounds in your chest , the sweat forms on your upper lip and you get pre-orgasmic tremors when you see a Quetzal, you are a hopeless addict.

Reality and Virtual Reality

We remember a recent weekend expedition. Most birds were seen as fleeting blurs through the forest leaves. Others had long gone by the time we trained our glasses on them.

Fakers ticked their lists, if anyone within a five-mile radius saw the bird.

In fairness, the expert guides were great at seeing the unseeable at a range of a few hundred yards and catching them in their scopes. We lazy slobs don’t waste time with our binos. We just elbow others aside to see the bird in the scope.

There was a skilled photographer wielding a five foot long telephoto -lensed  camera. As with the Longbow men of old England, the overdeveloped muscles of one arm were Schwarzeneggar–like. In this case  it was to wield the mighty lens rather than to draw the bow.

This poor fellow sacrificed the smell of the woods, the wider vistas of the scenery and the fellowship of hushed conversations about f….ing birds, just to preserve something of the occasion for posterity.

Later, his close ups of birds we only saw half hidden in far off woods were awesome. His website showed the trip as an outstanding safari through the most exotic jungle, worthy of an entire National Geographic documentary.

Ivy remarked. “I wish we had been on that trip.”

 So did I. I had enjoyed our trip till I saw this better one which he photographed. 

All in a good cause?

Hidden amongst the mealtime announcements about future expeditions and events was an appeal for a good cause. You might be thinking: help funding the aid for the Ebola epidemic;  sending food aid to starving orphans in Africa, or because this is Costa Rica, providing funds to castrate man’s best friend. (Ouch!)

Well you would be wrong. The most important charity donation of the year was a never to be missed opportunity. T shirts were on sale to fund the preservation of the habitat of the endangered Three Wattled Bell Bird.

Never one to miss the chance to contribute towards saving the essential elements of the World we live in, I received my T-shirt. The color can only be described as grunge. In shape it resembles a sack. The quality of the fabric is that of a used and wrinkled brown tissue paper. Its saving grace is not the crudely painted and rather boring birds on the back. Well what do you expect for 25 bucks?

The good news that the grunge-color and ill fitting nature of this apparel makes you blend in with your fellow birders. The feeling of smug superiority you get for having helped to save a bird that has an ugly face is hard to describe It is the elephant man of the bird world, that looks as if it was ambushed by a bowl of spaggetti and got lots stuck to its beak. Perversely, it failed to show up on the trip. Perhaps it felt obliged to act endangered?