Saturday, December 18, 2010

my first Christmas bird count

'Tis the season, and while my count isn't until the 27th, I'll give you a little tale of my first attempt at being a serious birder...

I was in my first year of graduate school in South Dakota, and I had dated a guy in my undergraduate ichthyology class a couple times. He was already a passionate ornithologist, while I carried a more casual interest in birds from my childhood. I always wonder why I went into fisheries instead of birds...the tradeoff between more jobs and more fun I guess.

He asked me if I would like to go on the Brookings, SD Christmas bird count, and I agreed. (at this time I did not even own a pair of boots rated for South Dakota winters!) A neighbor in my well-preserved historical Classic house, that was now divided into apartments, was also going. We went to the bar the night before. That's where the fun began...

Let me tell you this: Never go on a Christmas bird count with a hangover! I sat all day in the back seat of a car with a poor heating system, my feet frozen, with my cheap K-mart Focal binoculars, trying not to throw up. I tried to be interested in a flock of horned larks, and I reluctantly got out of the car in a small rare hardwood forest to see a couple of great horned owls. I was mildly amused when the group got together at the end of the day and some of the older birders vehemently disputed our duck sightings. ("They were in OUR territory!")

I did not go on another Christmas bird count for over twenty years. I met The Hermit right around the time this count occurred, so my ornithologist guy got dumped, although I don't think it was serious at that point. I probably went back to my studio apartment in that beautiful old house, got under the covers on my futon, and shivered it off. I had a bird feeder outside my window, and I got an occasional red breasted nuthatch that winter. Life was good.

4 comments:

Floridacracker said...

Ack! Hangovers! You must have been miserable.
I enjoyed this bit of memory lane and liked the ending especially.

Penelope said...

It's a wonder you ever did another Christmas Bird Count! I think it's a wonderful project.

webb said...

Love the picture of you in the back seat - been there, too! Hope this year it's a more pleasurable experience!

Jayne said...

Oh Deb... I was giggling as I read this. I probably would have been about THAT interested in college as well! LOL!