Birder's Guide

JAN 2019

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Out of Africa 34 Birder's Guide to Travel | January 2019 lieve they said—a Northern Shrike and some Short-eared Owls." "I don't know if they'll make it home to- night. But, you know, I look at things on the bright side. If he weren't chasing after birds and getting cars stuck, he'd be following the Grateful Dead." Um, no. My proclivities run more in the direction of the young J. S. Bach, who at the exact same age I was at the time, walked more than 250 miles to hear Dieterich Buxtehude play the organ. I quibble. Deadheads and Bach aficionados are cut of the same cloth. And my mother, not one to diss the Dead, would agree. That said, I differ on another point, and it's a biggie, in my mother's interpreta- tion. I don't think I would have followed the Grateful Dead if it weren't for birding; I don't think I would have followed any other pursuit or passion at all; I wonder if I'd instead have set up shop in her base- ment. I'm wary, to say the least, of the view that we're born birders—or Deadheads, or Buxtehude pursuers. Instead, I think we more or less stumble upon those things, through a combination of happenstance and privilege. In this view, we're birders not so much because of something within ourselves, but, rather because of the actions and in - I had just arrived at the airport hotel in Johannesburg, mid-morning local time, around two in the morning New York time. I get sick on boats, as you already know, and I don't sleep on airplanes. The bed in my hotel room was big and soft and fluences of other people. I get that bird study can be prac - ticed in solitude; I appreciate that insight and introspection are the twin touchstones of the birding experience; and I acknowledge that birders are often said to draw from the ranks of the introverted. That's all well and good. And that's got nothing to do with the fact that birding is, at its core, a profoundly humanistic enterprise. Which reminds me of one more anec- dote from my visit to South Africa. n Hadeda Ibises (upper) and Blacksmith Lapwing (lower), O. R. Tambo International Airport, Gauteng, South Africa. Photo © Ted Floyd n White-chinned Petrels and Black-browed Albatross, off Kleinbaii, Western Cape South Africa. Photo © Ted Floyd

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