“Five from Two.”

by Mike at Two-Fisted Birdwatcher on September 9, 2012

Here, on this informative birding website you get informative birding stuff. Who needs something different? Maybe there’s no need. But, for whatever it’s worth, we’ll give it a shot. Below are five short posts from the blog called “Daily Sightings” on “Two-Fisted Birdwatcher.” They come at subjects we all might care about, but from different angles. They represent another voice in the wilderness. But out there, in the wilderness, whether it’s man-made or genuine, there are usually birds.

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Silly hats at both recent conventions show that tribalism can make people look foolish. Better are those who run with no tribe, the lone wolves. Daniel Boone, Thoreau, Ed Abbey. (Forget Boone’s silly hat).

The thought of being a lone wolf reminded me of an incident…

I was on a wooden footbridge over a creek in deep woods, taking a break. I’d hiked in for solitude, but also for the birds. Saw a Northern Flicker, no rarity but a favorite. Fall warblers. An Ovenbird, a reddish Wood Thrush.

I’d been leaning on the railing, unmoving, when a coyote walked into the creek bed below, not knowing I was there. He kept coming, then looked up and stopped. A long moment of eye contact. Then, he went on his way without hurrying or looking back, dignity intact.

I remembered this while watching the crowds on TV. Thinking about lone wolves, and having seen the real deal that day. I thought: gotta get back to that bridge.

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A male Scarlet Tanager kicks ass all summer. Its wild coloration defies camouflage and common sense. Hot red. Black wings. As if designed by an artist who’s high. But, now, in September it changes from gaudy to drab.

This bright bird—a bird that stood out like a stop sign in the woods—goes from red to yellow-green. It molts. Not a nice word: molt. Molting is another measure of time slipping into the future. It makes September more than a month, but a metaphor. As the days grow short, look how your hair goes gray. Or goes away.

But a tanager’s molt, unlike ours, is temporary. The bird flies to a jungle for the winter. When it reappears it’s hot red again, and red hot. Maybe that’s why we search for tanagers in spring. Nice to see that some things can come back.

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Bookstore Gulls

The bookstore is a two-story dinosaur, counting days until the web nudges it aside. Meanwhile, web feet are in its parking lot.

The place has no water. No garbage. Just cars in the hot sun. Yet, every signpost has a gull on it. Ring-billed. Or Herring. Or both. Maybe a rare Thayer’s. The differences are subtle. You came for a book, not bird watching. But, what the hell. You look at the gulls.

There’s a two-story bookstore in a different mall. It recently closed. A monument to the twin partners of progress and extinction. There are no gulls in that shuttered store’s empty parking lot. They don’t go there any more. No one does.

As you stand in the parking lot of the bookstore that’s still alive, you try to pick out Ring-billed from Herring, and you look for Thayer’s. But you don’t really care what these gulls are called. You’re just glad they’re not out of business.

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There was a time.

Jazz played on the radios of steamed up cars, parked in the night. The music was part of the mood. And the memory. Coltrane, Miles Davis. Charlie Parker. Parker was a saxophone player nicknamed “Bird.” One of his albums is even titled, “Ornithology.”

There was a night when, above Parker’s sax on the car radio, I heard another cool sound. In the old trees above our parked car was an owl. I cared. I remember trying to concentrate on other things, but couldn’t help thinking: Great Horned? Maybe Barn?

The Great Horned won that guessing game with a smile because of the great horniness in our world. But, a better sound than even that of a wild owl in a wild tree came from Parker’s wild sax. Part of the sound track of that time and place.

Charlie Parker. Another bird for your life list.


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The unclassified bird.

It’s you. Impossible to pigeonhole.

Maybe you’re the guy who looks like a kickass biker. Handlebar moustache. Sitting on a hog. We hear that your interests include Nascar and opera. Wait: opera? And you like Seinfeld reruns. Huh?

Maybe you’re the lady feeding hummingbirds. Gotta be a grandma who knits, right?  No. You’re a cop.

People, in general, defy stereotyping. But here and now, we’re talking about two-fisted birdwatchers. You. You’re young. You’re old. Male, female, rural, urban. Burly, frail, sexy, unsexy. High-IQ, average IQ, underestimated IQ. You might wear a suit and tie. Or no shoes.

Like birds, you come in many colors. Unlike birds, you couldn’t be put into a field guide. You might look like you can be figured out based on where you live, how you dress or talk, things like that.

But the more we learn about you, the clearer it becomes: you’re not easy to classify.

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