Monday, July 2, 2012

Birdman

I love birds. I always have, but I never really had the opportunity to study them up close until recently. I have several very clear memories from when I was child of seeing and identifying particular birds, and they stand out in my memory like photographs, unfaded over time. But I was always a city girl, and I didn't know that the pastime of birding really even existed beyond some nerdy guys in vests and safari hats with huge binoculars.

Then we moved to Minnesota, and everything changed for me. I would have to say it was the bald eagles that did it. They are lovely and majestic and untouchable. I began to notice the world of feathered animals around me, and I was hooked. Like a child, I make silly mistakes, but still, I am eagerly soaking up everything I can learn about them.

Since this blog is supposed to be about my husband, I guess I'd better get to him. He has lived outside virtually all his life, picking weeds in the garden and feeding the animals for as long as he can remember. So I suppose it isn't surprising that he knows a bit about birds. He noticed my fascination with them, put up bird feeders around our house, and bought us a few monoculars and pairs of binoculars. I bought him a Birds of Minnesota book for Valentine's Day.

Together we identified the little pretties eating from our feeders, but it wasn't until I ventured out and started identifying birds at a nearby lake that I discovered how much he already knew.

I spent 20 minutes trying to identify the trilling sound of an elusive bird late one afternoon and finally recorded it and played it back to him. "I can't find this bird. Do you know what it is? Listen." He replied without judgement, "Yeah, that's a tree frog." (I told you I've made some stupid mistakes.)

I called him from the car: "This goose just flew over, and it had a funny pouch under it's neck, and it's tail had this strange feather on the end." Again, he replied, "It was a blue heron." He didn't bother to correct me on the strange tail feathers; they were the bird's feet flying out behind him. He knew I'd be on my Audubon app looking for it anyway.

We were camping and this eerie, screeching cry came out of the woods. "What the hell was that?" said everyone. It sounded like a cross between a cat and a child. "An owl," said my husband. The next day we looked it up, listened to the bird sounds, and sure enough it was a long-eared owl.

I'll bet even he didn't realize how extensive his bird identification skills were until I started asking questions. I certainly didn't. Yet another thing I didn't know about my husband.