Until the early 1980’s, I had little interest in birds except for the summer my grandfather died and I stayed with my grandmother’s in Chetek, Wisconsin. We’d feed the blue jays (Grandma called them the teenagers of the birds because they were so rowdy), run from attacking red-winged blackbirds protecting their nests and marvel at the great blue herons that would stand, still as statues, in the shallows of Ten Mile Lake waiting for their dinner to swim by.
In 1981 or so I met Marie. She’d been teaching herself how to identify birds. Because I respected, and idolized her a bit, I thought perhaps I, too could teach myself about birds. I bought a cheap pair of binoculars and a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds East of the Rockies and began to learn to distinguish one bird from another.
While I still like to identify birds, I don’t normally go out of my way to do so. For instance, I don’t think I’d go on a trip just to see a particular bird species. When we go on vacation, I often take my binoculars and maybe 40% of the time actually use them to look at birds. Occassionally, like when we visit my sister-in-law in Florida, we do take side trips that I consider purely birding excursions, but there usually is another activity attached, such as going to the beach or hiking — to please the rest of the family.
I went on a few bird walks in my early days of birding, but never felt comfortable with the other birders because I won’t put a bird on my life-list if someone else identifies it first.
Additionally, I like to be comfortable, so you won’t find me at a wetlands in cold temperatures or trekking through the rain forest or desert to see an elusive species.
At first I thought I’d call this blog The Accidental Birder (a nod to one of my favorite Anne Tyler books) but I think The Incidental Birder describes my birding method better.