Extreme Birding

Usually when I tell people that my husband and I are birders I often get an exchange that goes something like this:

Other person: “Excuse me, did you say, birder? What’s that?”

Me: “Yeah, I said birder as in birding or what most people call bird watching.”

Other person: “What do you do exactly?”

Me: “Well, we like to find different species of birds and it takes us to interesting places like Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico and even Panama where we’re going this Spring.”

At this point some people generally drop off in their interest in hearing anything more about birding. Some will give me the raised eyebrow with a “Really?” response.  Others will be eager to change the subject because they don’t’ have anything else to say because think they don’t know anyone else who is a birder. Overall, it seems as though most people think birding is just a boring hobby and so they want to get out of a boring conversation.

And then I pull out this photo…

…and I explain about our birding adventure in Belize two years ago where we were birding El Pilar and needed to hire “men with guns” (as our guide, Eric Tut put it) to accompany our group.  El Pilar is on the Guatemala / Belize border and is known for its bandits.  The prior year Eric had taken a group to the same area (sans men with guns) and some bandits jumped his van, made Eric pull over, tied up the birders and Eric, took their money, jewelry including wedding rings, cameras, and binoculars.

All of a sudden the boring conversation above turns a bit exciting. I generally get a, “Whoa! That’s so cool!”

Back to to the Belize adventure at El Pilar:

I’ll have to tell you, after we picked up the men with guns and were traveling in the van to El Pilar on a very hot morning, not one of us said a peep.  It was quite sobering thinking that we could actually be in danger as we walked around the beautiful jungle of Belize looking for birds. I remembered the story about the group of birders in Colombia who were kidnapped by rebels in 1998, four of whom were Americans. My favorite part of that story though (aside from the outcome that they were freed), was that Todd Mark, one of the captives, said that he spent most of his time talking about birds to the rebels who captured him. “I think I bored them to death,” he said.

So I guess birding might be boring to some and in the dangerous pockets of the jungle that kind of boredom can come in handy. One just might be able to bore their captors enough to be freed.

Here are more pictures from that trip:

We got a late start that morning and it was so hot so we didn't see many birds, but I got a great shot of this Scrub Euphonia

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Our guide Eric Tut giving us an overview at El Pilar

Eric Tut at El Pilar where we stopped for awhile. I shot this with my iPhone using a special camera app. One of my favorite photos of that day.