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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Page 36 of 67

35 January 2019 | Birder's Guide to Travel warm and comfy, and I was exhausted, so I went birding. First things first. Where to go? I in- quired of Patricia, a local and a non-birder. Long story short: For reasons of personal safety, but also of propriety and decorum, it wouldn't be feasible to leave the hotel grounds, small and mostly paved over, adjacent to the roaring R21, the regional equivalent of I-95. My assessment of the situation was understandably glum. But Patricia had advised me that looks can be deceiving. "Cheer up!" was her kindly exhortation to me—she assured me that she sees interesting if innominate birds around the hotel every day. She had no idea. Right away, I got two life orders. In the same tree, a date palm. Let that sink in for a moment. A Gray Go-away-bird, order Musophagiformes, and a pair of Speckled Mousebirds, order Coliiformes. Those are the only two avian orders en- demic to Africa. I still remember the time I saw two life species in the same sugar maple (February 12, 1982), but this was ridiculous. Also in and around that ho- tel parking lot: Blacksmith Lapwings and Hadeda Ibises and Southern Fiscals, a Dark-capped Bulbul and a Karoo Thrush, and a passel of birds with "Cape" in their name (white-eye, robin-chat, wagtail, sparrow). I bumped into Patricia that evening in the hotel restaurant, thanked her for the birding intel, promised to email her my digital checklist, and reflected on some- thing: This world of ours is peopled by the most kindly and compelling sorts: Jesse and Christoff, the Afrikaner mari- ners and Patricia, my childhood birding chums, my mother the enabler, and so many more. I'm glad and grateful that I've devoted most of my life to bird study. Because I'm a birder, I encounter hippos; I seek out trawlers and strip mines; I discover unimagined beauty in hotel parking lots. That's a felicitous thought. But there's a sobering converse to the preceding: I don't think it was necessarily meant to be. Being a birder isn't a reflection of who we are. It's the promise of who we are to become.

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