Birding the world from home

2005 December 25
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — The weathermen had predicted a chance of snow for this morning, but we awoke to a wet and quite unfrozen world.

One of my gifts was “Birds of the Solomons, Vanuatu & New Caledonia,” and I pored over it as the family arrived for dinner. It has solved a mystery for me: The triller I saw my last day in Port Vila was of the Polynesian persuasion. I didn’t think he looked very long tailed, but in this case the white eyebrow I observed was diagnostic. So was the two-note call, evidently.

My grandfather wanted to look through the book and quickly became enthralled by its colorful plates of whistlers, honeyeaters, parrots, pigeons, and doves. He was amazed by the subtle differences between species — and the immense differences between our birds and the birds of the South Pacific. I tried to explain a bit about island biogeography, but my own knowledge on the subject is sorely lacking.

Looking at the pictures, and talking about the birds, I could feel myself getting excited again. I have so much still to see!

I quietly renewed my resolve to write Brian Coates about my Atoll Starlings.

Chickadees and titmice fed just outside the window as we feasted together at noon. House Finches and goldfinches came sometimes, and juncos always skitter around.

Chickadees are a Christmas bird to me, and I haven’t figured out why. Perhaps the feeling grew during winters and winters of feeding birds. In the years before my serious birding began, I probably never saw them outside of winter. Their crisp black and white, their cheery-sounding calls, and their rambunctious acrobatics seem perfectly suited to brisk winds and snow. But no snow this year.

I saw chickadees after dark too, printed on a turtleneck that we brought to Aunt Adele. We went by her room to give her a gift and sing a few carols too. Mom put the package on her lap, and she said it was very nice. But she didn’t know what to do with it.

She rubbed her hands across the shiny paper but couldn’t open it, even with coaching. They opened it for her and showed her the clothes — sweaters and turtlenecks so she can’t unbutton them. And one had chickadees and pretty blue birds on pine boughs. I think she liked them.

We sang too, several carols, but she barely responded. She’d always loved carols. I’d like to think she still does, even though she can’t tell us anymore.

After goodbye, we went on to watch “March of the Penguins,” another of my gifts, at grandpa’s duplex. We hadn’t gotten snow, but we saw plenty of it then, as we marveled at the story of ongoing life in one of the world’s most sterile of places.

Related posts:

  1. Home birds
  2. Summer home
  3. Birding on the winter solstice
  4. Pictures of a new world
  5. Surprise guest on a bitter night

Comments are closed.