October 2019

Vol. 47, No. 5

Musings from the Blind Birder: The Conversation Might Go Like This

Martha Steele

We birders tend to spend a lot of time in our vehicles, often slowly driving along rural or conservation area roads listening for birds. Especially during spring and summer in the Northeast, we may be in our vehicles for hours at a time, periodically jumping out to investigate something we just heard or to walk a trail. So, one might ask, what do we talk about during the many hours in our vehicles?

The conversation rarely strays from birds or birding. We might start the day's vehicle peregrinations by sharing our excitement about what birds we will see during the morning's exploration. But sometimes, the enthusiasm might be tempered by the conditions outdoors. Birding while riding in a car requires open windows to listen for birds. If the temperature is in the upper 30s or lower 40s when you start out on an early spring morning, a cold wind may be blowing through the car in one open window and out the other. These circumstances may necessitate a change in strategy such that one of us might need to close our window to prevent frozen hands, face, or feet. At this point, there is little conversation other than cursing the weather, and optimism falters.

But then, that first Winter Wren starts singing and we focus again on the task at hand: listening, without other birders in the vehicle saying anything to distract our focus. As we move along, we mutter to each other the core of birder conversation in a moving vehicle: "Ovenbird," "Chestnut-sided," "Red-wing," "Black-throated Blue," "Yellowthroat," or "Indigo," and so forth.

To view the rest of the article you'll need to subscribe. Bird Observer publishes original articles on birding locations, on avian populations and natural history, on regional rarities, field notes, field records, photographs, and art work.