Monday, July 28, 2008

I Need a Twelve Step Program -- Quick!

I fear that I am becoming a bird nerd. This is a sad day for me because I always envisioned bird nerds as plump, elderly, whitest of white folks, wearing plaid Bermudas, floral shirts, a big floppy hat, and a raging farmer's tan, running gracelessly amongst the trees with their binoculars bouncing on their chest, while they chase a bird no one has heard of, acting as if they have found the fountain of youth.

"HARRIET! LOOK! It's the pink-toed wormburglar! It's sitting on a branch! OHMYGOD, I cannot believe we finally found a pink-toed wormburglar! Scratch that off our list, Harriet! The guys back at the Bird Nerd Club will not believe this!"

No, no, no. Not me. That can't happen to me.

Yet, there I was today, at a dam on the Fox River, sitting on a bench, watching the family of ducks wading nearby. There were about a dozen men fishing a few feet away, and I was trying hard to ignore them, with their loud voices, all the cigarette smoke, and the gruesome behavior of hauling up their catch and then clubbing it to death. While sitting there, I noticed two large birds sitting on the top branches of a dead tree that protruded from a small island in the river. This is a waterfowl sanctuary, and I'm accustomed to seeing herons, cranes and ducks, who dominate the area, but these creatures atop the tree were not any of the birds I was familiar with.

As I was taking pictures of the birds, something clicked on in my head, and the bird nerd inside me came alive.

They have webbed feet and short, hooked bills like ducks. Stocky bodies, too. But they're tall and have slender necks and heads like herons. The hooked bill is probably so they can eat vegetation, but the neck area was elastic-y, like a pelican's, and it looked like these birds were fish eaters as well. Something between a duck and a heron. What's between a duck and a heron?

DUDE! I'm not a bird nerd! Yet, onward I went.

Weird how they're all black. I've seen solid black ducks and dark feathered herons, but this is still totally different. Too big for a night heron. Oh, is that orange near the bill? What the heck has bald, orange skin near the bill and is solid black everywhere else? I have to know what that bird is!

And so I took these pictures, which are very bad because I refused to unload the tripod and get a clearer shot. They were kinda far away.

I was actually so frustrated with the mystery bird and my own fascination with the bird that I ended up giving myself a headache and leaving. When I got home I looked it up on What Bird and discovered I had seen two double-crested cormorants! Now I'm embracing my bird nerditude a little because I cannot remember ever seeing a cormorant before, and I simply must put this on my list at eBird.

I'm such a dork.


Cat. said...

I'll just start calling you BirdDork. ;-)

Amanda (the librarian) said...

I was a bird nerd when I was your age and younger. :) I can remember getting up at ungodly hours and hiking to tops of hills or edges of rivers and sitting silently for hours with a camera with a telephoto lens. Still go nuts trying to identify some of the visitors to our backyard and the nearby lake.

Anonymous said...

When I was in my early teens, my family built a house. The dirt from the foundation was piled right outside our patio window, and remained there for most of the summer the year we moved in. Because of the weeds and what grew there, our entire family became bird nerds... and we identified over 75 different birds that summer. I still feel a rush when I see a bird that I've not seen before and watching birds connects me back to my childhood years. It sounds like you find your peace there... much like I find mine...

Leelu said...

*points and laughs*

*looks at vast quantities of personal geekitude*

*points and laughs at both of us*

Anonymous said...

Embrace the bird nerd in you! Wow, I've never seen a cormorant before, in picture or real life. Thanks!

My parent's used to have orioles spend the summer - what gorgeous birds! They love grape jelly so we would leave small dishes of jelly taped to the top of the fence and then just watch them swoop in for a bite all day long. One day a daddy oriole brought his just learning to fly daughter with him. What a treat. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to capture the moment, though.

VA sends.

Lummox said...

Just so I am sure I have this straight. "Pink-toed wormburglar" isn't a euphemism is it?

Gardenbuzzy said...

I've never heard the term "bird-nerd" before but if the shoe fits...

I guess Eddie and I are confirmed bird nerds.

Actually, if the shoe fits, you should buy a pair in every color.

Travelin' Tracy said...

Very nerdy, but very entertaining!