Earlier this month, at the onset of the 2021, it was cold, gray and icy, but happily, I chanced upon an engrossing radio discussion on “Science Friday” about the joys of bird watching. https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/making-outdoors-inclusive/It made me remember that winter won’t last forever and yep, birdwatching is so cool.
The radio guest referred to a group of STEM professionals and Stem students who, as of last spring from May 31-June 5th, started Black Birders Week. The idea was conceived following the Central Park incident. A black male birdwatcher was falsely accused of assaulting a white female dog walker.
On the radio, the young woman being interviewed laughingly referred to herself and all birdwatchers as “nerdy.” I’m not so sure about that label, but for two days in 2004, I was thoroughly captivated with my opportunity to become a birdwatcher. I threw myself into birding. After discovering such gorgeous creatures, I went out and bought a bird book and recorded my sightings. I vowed to keep birding when I got home. I didn’t keep it up, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.
In my memoir, These Boys Are Killing Me, I write about the adventures of my risk taking sons, but I also describe my birding experience. It happened when I joined my son Colin in South Africa, after he’d been on the road for three months. In total, his trip would last one year, two weeks and one day. It turned into an around-the-world solo backpacking journey. Based on his emails (and he didn’t even report everything), the year nearly killed me with worry. And for the record, when your kid, or anyone, drops off the grid for such a long time, it doesn’t just frighten a mother who’s worrying at home. It also messes with the backpacker’s head.
For some inexplicable reason, while on the safari with Colin, I found the exotic birds to be just as thrilling, if not more so, than spotting big cats, elephants and rhinos. Birding is solitary and spiritual. It’s an unexpected gift and I keep vowing to get back to it. Birding is one of the most gratifying ways to be one-on-one with the natural world.
And even though I live across the street from Forest Park and Kennedy Forest, where over 200 bird species have been spotted, I’ve never had the nerve to go into the woods alone. Alone is how I’d want to bird, but unfortunately, the idea of meeting the wrong person is what keeps me away.