Hello new birders. Welcome! We are happy to have you. It’s been about four months since the pandemic took hold–when you got trapped in your home or apartment and out of sheer boredom, you began to notice that the world is filled with tiny feathered dinosaurs. Suddenly, you began to see them everywhere. You bought some binoculars and bought a guidebook, and began to learn their names.
And yet, when people ask you if you’re a birder, you blush and say, “nah.”
Here’s the deal: If someone asks if you’re a birder, you may as well admit it. If you think, “But I still mix up hairy and downy woodpeckers,” then you are a birder. If you’re saying to yourself, “But I can only name, like, three types of warblers,” then you, my friend, are definitely a birder.
Face it: You’re a birder. The good news is that it’s not entirely your fault. We, the media, are in the pocket of Big Bird. We called birding, “a joyful hobby,” and said that it’s “good for the soul.” We even winkingly said, “resistance is futile.” You might have thought that last one was a joke, but it’s not. Birding is an addiction, and it’s about to take over your life.
I’m not here to warn you, it’s too late for that. I’m here to let you know what will happen next.
1. You’re going to need a better cell phone. Also, stop calling it a phone. It’s for birding apps. eBird, iBird, BirdsEye, BirdNet — I am not making any of these up and they are all essential. Get your priorities straight and delete some family photos.
2. Speaking of family, you need to get your spouse onboard. Mixed marriages require a nearly inhuman amount of compromise on the parts of both birder and muggle spouses. At best, you’ll end up with separate vacations. At worst, you’ll be caught cheating via eBird. Did you really have to report the out-of-range flycatcher that blew your alibi? You did, of course you did.
3. Single birders, be aware that your next “meet cute” story will involve a tricky bird id. You’ll never speak of your shameful secret, but you’ll squeeze your beau’s hand every time you hear the melodic trill of a hermit thrush.
3. You’re about to spend way too much on optics. Don’t forget the scope! And the camera lenses. Maybe take out another mortgage? Just spitballin’ here.
4. You’re going to make some dumb mistakes. Mine? I once saw a woodpecker and said, “Oh, is that a woody?” Don’t be a Franzen. Forgive yourself and move on.
5. It’s now impossible for you to have a conversation outside. Is that a robin? There’s something in its mouth! A stick, I think. I’m sorry, were you saying something?
6. FYI, fall migration is coming. All those birds you saw in the spring? They’ve been bumping uglies (cloacas), and there are twice as many now. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: Their plumage is all sorts of confusing. Better start studying today.
7. Stay away from the seagull people. Except to troll them. See what I just did there? But seriously, they’re cuckoo.