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“It’s a birding mecca!” exclaimed my husband Steve when he suggested we go to Point Pelee National Park in Ontario.
It would be our first birding adventure since my broken ankle accident in Zion National Park six months earlier, which included surgery–a plate, six screws and two pins–and I was still in physical therapy. I hadn’t been doing a lot of walking and this would be my first big trip. Steve, bought me a great compact stool
I could Steve could sling over his shoulder so I could use when I needed to sit and rest.
So in May we were birding Point Pelee at the peak of Spring Migration and the place was practically wall to wall birders. Not only that, but it seems as though there were gobs of warblers everywhere too. Blackburnian, Black and White, American Redstart, Black-throated Blue, Nashville, Cape May, Northern Parula. And not just warblers, but also Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole and the lovely Summer Tanager, all of which are just a handful of what we saw.
We had taken the shuttle from the Visitor’s Center up to the Point-about a 2-mile drive–and we started to meander our way back on foot. I was tired and used my stool from time to time and even huddled under a fir tree as it began to rain while Steve, with binoculars in hand, wandered around looking for a good bird. After about a mile, the shuttle stopped and picked us up on its way back to the Visitor’s Center. As we were getting off the shuttle we heard the rumblings from other birders about a Bell’s Vireo that was spotted at the point.
A Bell’s Vireo? ”That’s about 800 miles off course,” Steve explained to me. He was game to go back up to the point, but I just wanted to rest. And get a hot dog. Steve stayed on the shuttle and I climbed off and as I made my way to the concessions I thought, “A Bell’s Vireo? I don’t know what that is, but I think I’ll be sorry I missed it.” And so I turned back around and got on the shuttle just as the driver was closing the door. I sat next to Steve and he was pleasantly surprised to see me. (Points for me, which I’ll save to cash in later.)
Once the shuttle stopped at the point, it seemed as though all the birders were rushing a Bon Jovi concert. I swear, I saw a senior citizen push someone out of her way. They all speed-walked to the tree where the bird was, and of course, everyone–even the senior citizens–are faster walkers than me nowadays.
As I approached the area where all the birders were congregated, I couldn’t resist taking this photo:
I wonder what I would do if I was 800 miles off course. Usually an error like that is something you don’t want to advertise or make known. But in this case, this bird’s “over reaching” brought a lot of joy to people. It’s not like most of them hadn’t seen the Bell’s Vireo before. It’s that they know it’s rare in this neck of the woods. I don’t know where this poor fella is going to find a mate here. I still wonder if he wised up and went back to Ohio.
And here’s the interesting thing about birding that I’ve learned. There are some who are like, “meh,” when they see the usual or common. But then there are others who are still fascinated by both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
I hope that one day when I’m 800 miles off course I can draw excitement from others. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to draw excitement just by being ordinary.
And here are other photos from our Point Pelee trip.
So I find the love of my life who ends up being a birder and I become one too. Sorta. And then I find out there are all sorts of birders around me. This planet is crawling with them.
One of the biggest surprises is finding out people you knew in high school–or even as far back as grade school–are avid birders. I remember finding out that one of my BFFs, Joyce, from grade school (more accurately, a BF, since we haven’t been in touch since high school) reported in the booklet of bios they handed out at our 10-year reunion (which she didn’t attend) that she and her husband love to spend their time “bird watching.” At the time I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? She admits to that?”
Now 17 years later I think,”Why did she call it bird watching? She probably dumbed it down for the rest of us, since any true birder knows it’s called, “birding.”
When I was dating my husband, my next door neighbor found me using the expressions “birding” and “birder.”
“You said ‘birder!’ ” the neighbor exclaimed. (You would have thought she found her long lost relative.) And then next day when Steve arrived, she popped over and had a list all typed up for Steve. They had never met before, but she had prepared for him a list of all the places in town to go birding.
That was Pomera. At the time she was on the Utah Ornithological Board. Crazy coincidence. We’ve gotten to be great friends with Pomera and her partner, Ann. We share our birding stories, like when she volunteered to help the fledging Peregrine Falcons in downtown Salt Lake City, or when Steve and I went to Costa Rica and to Belize, or about their trip to Trinidad. And whenever there’s a bird “incident” in our back yards (for instance the Cooper’s Hawk ambushing the mourning doves) we share the news with each other as though we witnessed a big crime right in our back yards and we’re ready to untangle it all for the next episode of Law and Order.
And then one day my brother sent me a note on Facebook and told me to look up Rob Fergus who I sorta grew up with. His mom and my mom were great friends. We are around the same age and went to the same church. Come to find out he’s what I call a Super Birder. (See “Twenty Bird Minimum Daily Requirement” and “The Birdchaser.”
Go figure. Like I said, the planet is just crawling with birders.