From time to time my friends have teased me by declaring that over the last few years I have become “a birder”. I suspect that they have images of the “Beverley Hillbillies” television show in their heads with Wally Cox as bird watcher Professor P. Caspar Biddle as they say these things to me. But the truth is I am not a birder. I know this because when I’m out in the woods or in the marshes, I’ve seen true birders and I don’t have what they have. I have an interest in birds. They have a passion.
I have a lot of admiration for the birders that I have met and I believe that, even though I don’t have it, I understand their passion. They keep a wealth of birding information at their finger tips. They know the various species, which season they are likely to be seen, what their identification markings are, what their calls sound like. There is a constant hunger for more information and an eagerness to put it to use. They strive for accuracy in identification. They work at it constantly. Correct identification is never something that is taken lightly. When an unusual bird is spotted and identified, you can see the excitement and happiness that spreads across their faces. A birder’s passion is something to be respected.
However, there is something else in the world of birding that you only get a glimpse of from time to time. There are rare people who have such a love for birds that they have moved beyond information gathering and moved into relationship. It is a relationship where both bird and man know that neither will harm the other. It’s a place of trust, comfort, and communion. I have seen a shy and reluctant nuthatch patiently coaxed out of the safety of the nearby branches to eat seed from an extended hand. I have seen a chickadee land on an old sweat stained hat without fear or hesitation. And I have seen more than one bird, while perched in a hand filled with seed, take a moment to look up into the eyes of its friend and benefactor.
To witness this kind of interaction causes a person to pause for a moment and realize that there is more available in this world than what is shown on television or in the movies. This kind of thing must be seen and experienced first hand. It must be witnessed with the warmth of the sun on your face and the sound of the wind in your ears because if someone else simply told you about it, you’d tend not to believe it.