Birdwatching Might Be a Cardinal Sin

One of the more satisfying aspects of retirement is the pursuit of pastimes. Devoted Spouse and I have become novice (dare I say fledgling?) birdwatchers. One of the reasons we flew (sorry) to birdwatching is it’s free. Well, sort of.

We embarked on our bird journey by purchasing a very nice set of binoculars for me; Devoted Spouse already had binoculars. I hadn’t done any research; I just knew I needed some decent binoculars if I was going to successfully locate a very small creature in a very large tree. Devoted Spouse went on the internet and discovered a local bird-stuff store carrying a particular brand of binoculars which were highly recommended. We went; I bought; about $300. Okay – we all spend money on hobbies; $300 isn’t that bad; I truly wanted to be a birder.

Several weeks later Devoted Spouse came to the realization that he, too, was in need of new binoculars. Off we went to the aforementioned bird-stuff store and came out with another pair of binoculars. Another $300. Okay — this is a hobby for both of us, so what’s a few bucks? Did I mention in the meantime I had joined the Audubon Society (for another $20 or so)?

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’ve certainly dropped larger amounts of money on other ill-fated hobbies and pastimes. I can’t count the number of beginning knitting projects I’ve invested in. All those needles and skeins of yarn don’t come cheap. Ask Devoted Spouse about the time I decided I was a pianist at heart — that involved not only lessons, but buying a piano. I periodically buy paints and paint supplies with the intention of unleashing my inner artist. Then there’s the rubber stamping phase — I still have oh about a thousand rubber stamps and more paper than an entire card-making club could ever need. Bottom line is hobbies can be expensive.

So, Monday morning, my friend Teri Ann, who is quite the birdwatcher, came over for breakfast and some birdwatching tips. We spent several hours in my back yard watching the trees for signs of our feathered friends. With Teri Ann’s help, I discovered many birds were living in my back yard – birds I had never heard of before. It was so cool. I’d hear something; Teri Ann would identify the bird, and we would all find it in whichever tree it was perched. This was turning into a fun hobby – I’d already spent the initial money, now I was reaping the benefits. Okay, breakfast cost me a few bucks, but Teri Ann is worth it. (*grin*) Then I find out we’re not using the right “bird book.” My friend suggests I locate Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds. Okay, I can do that. And, then she tells us of her birding travels — to exotic places like Africa and Costa Rica. Uh-oh. Cha-ching.

I located a copy of the Field Guide and it only set me back about $30. Of course, I couldn’t resist the book of bird songs with a cool playback tape machine attached so you can listen to about 130 different bird songs. And then there was the biography of Mr. Peterson (the Field Guide writer) which really sounded interesting and would make a fine addition to my Summer Reading List…

According to the Knight-Ridder News Service, the inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed. The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, abbreviated:

Wash. Biol. Surv.

until the agency received the following letter from an Arkansas camper:

“Dear Sirs:
While camping last week I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I followed the cooking instructions on the leg tag and I want to tell you, it was horrible.”

The bands are now marked Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yes, I’m going to make a great birder.

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