Monday, January 26, 2009


Well, so in high school, middle school and elementary school I think I was a dork. And in college, too, most definitely. In grad school I learned not to care so much so I forgot about my dorkiness, but as a mom I am afraid once again that I will nerd out on my kids and embarrass the heak out of them. Only time will tell.
The thing is, though, as I get older, I think (and you may just snicker behind my back and make snide un-dorky comments) - I think that the things that make one dorky are just grown up types of things that, done as a kid, were out of place and nerdy only by virtue of their chronological placement in your life.
When I was in the seventh grade, we were forced to - I mean, we were able to choose between four or five elective subjects in school, with Birdwatching being one of the selections. I think it was even called "Elementary Birdwatching," but I am old now and could be mis-remembering. No matter what it was called, though, for a red-headed, freckle-faced, "pre-braced" girl, any type of Birdwatching was fourth on my list just wasn't going to fly. Home Ec, Auto Repair, Needles in yer Eye or whatEVER else was being offered was my first, second and third choice. Alas, (and fortunately for me) my parents deftly placed the blue Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds in by hand and said, "But Chap is our frieeeeeend." Just my luck that not only would I have to sit in a class populated ENTIRELY by other dorks like me, but the instructor was my parents' friend - no, a good friend - who would, no doubt, embarrass me to no end by pointing this out. To the other dorks. Imagine. My very own parents actually having a FRIEND who was a high school science teacher and amateur ornithologist. The horror of it all.
The semester began smoothly enough and I think I remember I tried not to get too tight with the other students. I learned that there were many, many birds populating the skies other than crows, sparrows and robins. Grudgingly, I came to realize that it was impossible NOT to enjoy myself out at the Triple-R Ranch in Chesapeake at 7AM by an ancient pear tree "bssshhhh, bssshhhh, bsssshhhhhing" in an attempt to flush a Carolina Wren out of her hiding place. I didn't enjoy waking up at o'dark-thirty in the cold darkness of a Spring morning to drive to the Outer Banks to peer at sanderlings, waders, gulls, and terns, but a line of pelicans floating single file over the breakers led me to believe that I was mistaken in my misgivings. (Aside: Every time I drive down to Hatteras I still remember our mantra: "There's no bathroom on Pea Island!") .

This being a Christian school, choruses of anything rowdier than "100 Bottles of Milk on the Wall" were verboten on field trips. But for the handful of students who showed up for the Saturday field (often literally) trips, comparing notes on life lists, sightings and habitat garnered more attention and interest than any verse of "Henry the Eighth" could elicit.
Ah, now it comes back to me and I remember when one of the popular girls intoned, "Ahh, the BHURD-vatchahs" as we filed out of our classroom on the second floor. But I have to smirk when I recall that she sat behind me the next semester....Mr. P even had to limit students from taking more than two semesters of the class - funny, I don't remember what else I took after those Fall and Spring sessions.
Occasionally throughout my high school years and even into college, when I'd see a Prothonotary Warbler alight on a low branch or hear the echo of a Wood Thrush through the forest, before I could mask my delight I'd spoken its name aloud, identifying it, much to the amusement (? were they laughing at me or with me?) of my friends. One year I even received an obviously re-gifted coffee-table bird book because "you always seem to like those birds!"
Nowadays, I drink my coffee watching the birdfeeders outside of our kitchen window. We have five feeders: a pinecone smeared by little girl hands with a delightful mixture of lard, stale bread, birdseed, and leftover potato pancakes; a suet feeder with a homemade cake of peanut butter, several roasts' worth of congealed beef fat, goldfish cracker crumbs and the crusts from Hannah's sandwiches (YEAH, what ABOUT it?!), two tube feeders and one homemade milk-carton feeder that Hannah helped me to "recycle." (Note that the cost of birdseed is exactly the same as the sum at the bottom of our "entertainment" column on our monthly budget worksheet.) I eagerly point out Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers and nuthatches to Hannah, and she tells me when she sees a Cardinal, a Mourning Dove or a Goldfinch. I'm sure I can design a series of lesson plans around those feeders....
I am so grateful to my parents and their friend, Chap, for introducing me to a hobby which has been a constant in my life through its many incarnations. Those Saturday birdwatching expeditions are among my best memories of high school. The other day Andy said that he and a friend had seen a Flicker on their drive through town. My first inclination was to ask, "Was it a yellow-shafted or a red?" But I uh...well, I didn't want to um, blow my cover you know, and dork out on him or anything.


  1. In truth, there were a couple of reasons I offered that birdwatching class that you took. One, I genuinely enjoy the activity. Seeing bird behavior is so much easier than seeing otter, bobcat, you name the mammal, behavior. They are pretty, mostly vocal, and you can find them no matter where you live. And two, I hoped to give a few of the students a lifelong hobby. It appears I succeeded with at least one.

    I enjoyed the post, Heidi. It brought back some great memories.

    Come to Florida. I can show you Whooping Cranes and Snail Kites among others.

    Cheers, Chap

  2. Heidi, I love reading your blog so much. It makes me smile & laugh out loud sometimes. You, Andy & the girls are such a joy. I always enjoy coming back to my Dad's & seeing all the beautiful birds there. Maybe one day I'll have time to take a bird watching class & I'll think of you! Love, Terry S.

  3. Thank you for your comments! Right now Hannah has Abba in a wicker laundry basket over Abba's loud protestations - and Hannah's voice raises above the racket: you're sick, baby, I'm your doctor, no, don't cry - you have to spend the day here in the basket...!!
    But there was a brown creeper on the feeders this morning and a house finch this afternoon...
    One thing I gained from that class was that whereever I go, birds are a constant - they may be different and that is what makes it interesting - a Roadrunner in New Mexico or a Scissor Tailed Flycatcher in Oklahoma. Its a tie to and visible evidence of God's creation.


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