Let’s face it – birders are crazy people!
Take the Christmas Bird Count season as an example. Any time between mid December and early January, alarms are waking birders up very early in the morning. It’s still pitch black outside as coffee thermoses are filled and lunches are packed. Layers of clothes are added to the mix, weather forecasts are checked, snow is scraped off cars. And off we head, sometimes in snowstorms that would normally have us calling in sick to work or cancelling dental appointments.
And we drive, maybe for a couple of hours, to our appointed section of the Christmas Bird Count Circle – a circle with a diameter of 25 km drawn around an area of interest. By the time we get there, the darkness had lightened and the early birds are counted. And then we drive up and down roads and laneways, around crescents and subdivisions looking for birds. We stop at lakeshores and rivers and check open water for birds. The car windows are down so that we can hear the birds.
After seven hours of this, we are chilled right to the depths of the deepest parts of our bodies. We have walked kilometers through knee-deep snow to find the elusive birds. We have commented with regret at the number of birdfeeders that are empty. We have celebrated when we find full feeders attracting a full complement of birds
“After seven hours of this, we are chilled right to the depths of the deepest parts of our bodies.”
And then we add up the numbers of birds of each species. The information is shared with those who had covered other sections of the Circle, often at potluck dinners where stories are shared and “good birds” are hoarded until it’s time to reveal that a rare Horned Grebe has been spotted. The revelation brings a flurry of questions – Where?, When?, Are you sure that’s what it was? – as the serious birders take note so that they can go out the next day to see the bird.
We come back year after year to do the same thing. The kinship with other birders makes it all worthwhile. We are all in the same boat. And there’s that little bit of pride that we have contributed to the understanding of birds, their populations, their habitats, their migration.
Some birders will do only one count in a season. Others will do more. I myself did four counts this year. I know of others who participated in even more than that.
And then there’s today.
Despite the snow that was coming down for the thousandth time this winter, I decided to head into town. It was an easy 40 km drive, I picked up what I needed and headed back onto the roads to go home. Whiteout conditions, blowing wind, drifting snow. Roads unplowed. Despite having all-wheel drive and snow tires, it was a white knuckle drive and I’m not normally one who is bothered by the weather when I drive. For much of the drive I’m sure my vehicle was straddling the centre line. Oncoming cars added to the tension as neither driver was entirely certain where the ditches were so we skimmed by each other with just a few inches separating our cars.
And why, you might ask, would I have bothered going in to town in such weather?
I’d run out of bird seed and the birds needed more.
Hi, my name is Ginny. I’m a birder and a feeder of birds and I’m just a little crazy.
Ginny Moore is a volunteer with The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protecting habitat for hundreds for bird species.