Bird Watching with a Chainsaw.

Bird watching is my life.   Most of my best bird-watching has been done with a chainsaw. This is considered unethical in some bird watching circles but these are the same people who say it is wrong to bird-watch with a shotgun. Critics can say what they want and criticize my birdwatching techniques but have they ever seen a Cinnamon Teal?  I have. With stuffing and mushroom gravy on a bed of wild rice. The fact is a lot of my birdwatching life list has been on the dinner menu. A life list is a permanent record of the species you have observed in your time on Earth. It is a measure of your achievements as a bird watcher.

Competition bird-watching is all about the life list. Whoever dies seeing the most birds, wins.  You don’t have to say how you saw the bird. You just have to see them. And if you have to play a little rough and knock down a few trees to tag some serious life-list numbers, toughen up.

In recent years the sedate and studious pastime of birdwatching has been transmogrified into an ugly mob-scene where you have to see the bird before someone else does and spooks it, ruining your chances of boosting your life list.

Competition bird-watching is not a sport for your more sensitive types. Who would have guessed that watching birds was every bit as challenging and difficult as shooting them. Competition bird watching is one of the toughest sports you can do without wearing a helmet. Careers and reputations are won and lost on chance sightings that may or may not be real. Competition bird-watching has become a cutthroat race for glory where you have no friends. A moment’s inattention will find the lenses of your binoculars smeared with axle grease and the pages of your bird identification book glued together.

I think it was that famous bird-watcher, professor what’s-his-name who said,

“Hell is other bird-watchers.” This is my story. Seated in my four-wheel drive birdwatching blind at the edge of an isolated tidal swamp, we awaited through the gloom of a winter morning for the return of the rare and colorful Aleutian Tern that had been previously observed hereabouts.

Voices were heard, heralding the arrival of a gang of outlaw birdwatchers. While stereotyping and profiling have no place on a bird watching trip, you could tell these folks had probably been up all night. Staggering through the seaweed lugging tripods, cameras and telescopes, they stopped in front of our bird watching blind. With hundreds of miles of public beaches in our State, the bird watchers stopped and presented a panoramic view of their back sides that totally blocked our viewing area.

Other bird watchers are not the only hinderance to birdwatching. You often can’t see the birds for the trees. Falling timber has been my go-to strategy for upping the bird count numbers while the rest of the ham and egger bird watchers stand around looking at an empty sky. Cutting the trees down can get the birds moving and afford some excellent bird watching possibilities. That’s how I checked off a Northern Shrike, a Clark’s Nutcracker and a flying squirrel in one day! Of course, the flying squirrel is not a bird. Even I know that, but they might as well be. Flying squirrels are relatively easy to distinguish from other squirrels, they fly. Regular squirrels do not.

With the days getting longer and bird migrations starting, these are the glory days of bird watching. The life list is about to bump up.  It is good to be alive.