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February 2022

Vol.50, No. 1

Musings from the Blind Birder: Getting Into a Birding Pickle

Martha Steele

Most birders likely have a story or two to tell about getting into trouble or finding themselves in an uncomfortable position in pursuit of birds. For example, some skeptics view binoculars around a person’s neck as an indicator of the potential for spying with malicious intent and may feel justified in calling the police or confronting the birder.

My friend Rick, who lives in Vermont, recalled how, while out for a walk during a visit to family in Tucson, Arizona, he noticed a hummingbird perched on a wire. He moved to a spot where the sun was behind him to get a better view of the bird on the wire. He raised his binoculars and repositioned himself several times for a better angle to the bird. Within minutes, an angry woman confronted him, demanding what the [expletive] he was doing. Immersed in his effort to identify the hummingbird, Rick had not realized that he was in front of an elementary school. Clearly, the woman had wrongly assumed that he was training his binocular sights on young children at the school with malicious intent. He pointed to the hummingbird still perched on the wire and said that he was from Vermont and wanted to identify a bird that he thought he had never seen. The woman was mollified and apologized for her assumptions. It was, nonetheless, an unsettling experience for Rick that someone would automatically assume that he, by virtue of looking through binoculars, might be a pedophile.

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