Monday, June 08, 2020

Birding (From the Wife's Perspective)

John as a child
I met John when I was 9. We started dating when I was 16. We married at 21. 

I always knew he loved animals. But while he will still tell you his love encompasses all nature and all animals, he and BIRDS have a special connection. 


I am not sure if there is another animal that has seen its name become a different kind of noun. If you like monkeys there really isn't a word for you. You aren't a MONKEY-ER. Even dogs -- probably the most popular animal ever don't have one word to describe people obsessed with them. If you like them, you are a DOG-LOVER which  is still two words squished together to show the intensity of the relationship. 

But the word BIRD has it's own word. You are a: 

BIRDER. A bird-watcher. And you go ... 

BIRDING. Which is to observe BIRDS in their natural habitat as a hobby.

I first realized my husband liked BIRDS when he decided to get a lovebird. We named "him" Chaucer. (We thought Chaucer was a boy but discovered late in "his" life that he was a girl.)

Chaucer and Twain (also accidentally a she). 
Chaucer loved John. Before we got him/her a mate, he/she paired with John. John taught that bird "Step up." That meant that John was in charge, and Chaucer should step onto John's finger. And while lovebirds don't traditionally speak, that bird learned to say "Step up." And she would say it to ME when I walked into the room. She'd tell ME to step-up in order to tell me that she was in charge of me.

And then she'd bite me.

That's where my relationship with birds began. Getting bit by a lovebird who saw herself (himself?) above me on the pecking order.


In 2007, we went on a mission trip to Nigeria with three friends. We spent two weeks traveling South Africa and finished our trip on a Safari at Krueger. 

I think it was on this trip that my husband's love for birds materialized in front of my eyes. At one point, my friend Tara said to him in a statement that has since been retold more times than I can count: "John! Can you please start prefacing all your Look Guys! statements with whether we are going to see a BIRD or a mammal?"

He would say: "Look Guys!" and we would turn expecting to see a rhino or a giraffe only to have him tell us to look deep into a tree at a tiny little BIRD. Here is a link to a post he wrote detailing all the birds we saw during our time in South Africa for those of you who are reading this because you, too, share his fascination with BIRDS

(If you don't share the fascination, visiting the link will only bring you a few seconds of interest.)

One of the BIRDS JB got a picture of on our trip to Africa. 
My husband continued with his BIRD fascination intermittently after our Africa trip. However, ever since we have settled down on our farm here in East Tennessee in 2015, he has become an actual, bonafide BIRDER. 

I'll be frank. In the beginning, I truly did not GET BIRDING whatsoever. Even today, while I have learned to "get it", deep down, I still don't quite understand the fascination. I love my husband (A LOT!) We are best friends and enjoy doing things together. And I tried to do BIRDS with him. I really did. But I just couldn't get into them. 

If I am being completely frank, I honestly thought, at first, that he was a little odd for his intense fascination with BIRDS

But then John got me this book:

While it didn't make me want to become a BIRDER  this book was a great read and incredibly eye-opening. Even if you have zero interest in BIRDS, I think you'd enjoy this book. It also really helped me understand that BIRDING is actually a "thing." People are really, really into this. (John is not an anomaly! At least not when it comes to BIRDS.) 

I followed up the book with the movie. While quite different, it was really entertaining, and I recommend it as well.

The first time I physically met other BIRDERS was on our 20th anniversary trip to Maine in 2019. My husband did an amazing job setting up a trip where he could BIRD and I could relax and we could still spend a lot of time together. He'd get up early and BIRD while I would sleep in or get a massage or have breakfast in bed or just sit in a hammock and read. And by the time I was getting a little stir-crazy, he'd be home for the day, filled to the brim with BIRDS.

On Day 3 of our trip, we went on a whale watching / Puffin adventure. While on that trip, we met a Swedish father and his nineteen-year-old son. They had huge cameras and other cumbersome birding equipment. They were having so much fun together ... looking at birds. The man told us that his daughter had no interest in sharing his hobby. But that he and his son loved traveling together looking at BIRDS.

When we got back to our hotel room, John penned this Facebook post:

While I didn't become a BIRDER on our trip to Maine, my understanding of my husband and his hobby took another step forward during that week in that beautiful State.

At one point, I joined him in Arcadia National Park for a hike. I love being outside. I love nature. But I can get a little bored with too many BIRDS. So I learned to carry a novel. I would just find a good place to sit when the birding got intense and wait for JB to swing back through and move me onto the next spot. 

I met so many other birders on that trip. And they'd stop me and say: "Are you the person who carries the BIRDING book?" 

And I'd hold up my novel and say: "No, I'm the one who reads while he BIRDS."

(Yeah, you can even say I BIRD. You don't have to say you are a BIRDER or you go BIRDING. You can actually just say: "I want to go BIRD" and it is perfectly acceptable.)

Despite all of this learning about the hobby, I never have gotten into it. My oldest son, Isaac, enjoys BIRDS but he, like me, has many other things he'd rather be doing.

However, child #2 and child #3 have become fantatics. Already. And they are currently just 8 and 11. 

Honestly, I will roll over in bed and see a flash of someone running by my bedroom window and discover that one of them is already awake, camera in hand, heading out to BIRD

Both of them, if I clear their schedule for the day, can easily spend upwards of three hours a day outside, camera around their neck ... BIRDING. In fact, one camera wasn't enough and we managed to secure a second camera so that they could both be out at the same time.

And here's the truth: while I am not a BIRDER and I never will be, I absolutely LOVE that my children have found a passion they can share with their father. 

I love nature.

I love my husband.

I love my kids.

And I love this thing that they can share together.

And while they share it ...

I will read my novel.

Or get a massage.

P.S. Edited to add: here's a video sharing how our family is split down the middle when it comes to BIRDS."

1 comment:

TAV said...

HA HA HA!!! I SOO remember those safari days. And I still cannot get excited about birding...even though seeing that hawk? eating a pigeon in our yard was cool. :)