Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Birds and boys

You just never know what sort of influence you might be having on your kids and of course they are never going to tell you, but I realized one tonight and it was a pretty good one.

A friend of mine wrote a nice, thoughtful piece in the paper tonight about his young son’s encounter with a flock of Bohemian waxwings in the past week. It reminded me of my own son’s adventures with birds or at least my efforts to encourage some adventures and I thought maybe it would be an idea for my friend to try.

In the house my son and I shared every other week for seven years we had huge picture windows that overlooked a large woodland. Of course there were birds, a wide variety and we put out feeders for them. There were enough different species that I suggested we keep a life list. I called it “Our extra special picture window life list” and we taped it to the glass. The rule was we both had to see the bird and we had to identify it exactly, no “little brown chippies.” Over the next few years we added to that list often. Once in a while I would take it down and type the new ones into the computer to replace the handwritten ones and then tape it back up. That windowsill was always cluttered with bird identification books and binoculars.

Our favorites were the Steller’s jays who came to the deck for the peanuts we put out for them. They came every day in winter, often in gangs. One day we counted 13 on the deck and in the nearby trees waiting for their turn to swoop in for a peanut. We even recognized a few individuals. One we called Tank was noticeably bigger than the others and we swore the house shook when he landed. There was a day, too, when I hadn’t put any peanuts out yet. I heard a tapping on the window and when I went to look there was a jay perched on the back of a deck chair pecking at the window, demanding nuts.

Another favorite of mine was sometimes we could see a chickadee start from way deep in the woods and make a line in that up and down wave-like flight pattern they fly straight to the feeder that held sunflower seeds.

There are too many stories about the birds we saw and what they did for me to relate in a short blog post but they were almost constant entertainment. A friend from way back in high school visited once and added several species to his life list just sitting drinking coffee one morning.

My son more tolerated my passion for it more than he actually participated. But he surprised me when he was in sixth grade and wanted to do his science project testing what foods the jays would like best. His project won a statewide science fair division and earned him a big blue ribbon from a birding group.

After that junior high school took over and he got way too cool for dad’s bird interests. and I never noticed him paying much attention to birds again.

I hadn’t realized it until just today as I was telling my friend about our life list when it hit me. On our square-rigger sail this summer it came up we needed a bird identification book and no one seemed to have brought one. Turns out one person had. My 20-year-old son quickly produced his, the only one among that environmentally conscious crew to have one. And it was in telling my friend about it today that I realized what an event that really had been, the realization that at some point I had planted a positive idea with a growing boy. Perhaps in the encounter with the Bohemian waxwings, my friend has planted the same sort of idea with his son and one day the boy will reveal that influence to his father as well. I can tell him now it is one great, if unexpected, reward for being a parent.

Here is the last life list from the picture window:

(Seen through our window by both of us and confirmed with bird books)

Birds we've seen                                             Birds we've heard
Varied Thrush                                             Owl (Saw whet)
Steller's Jay                                                      Woodpecker
Common Redpoll                                             Loon
Robin                                                               Birds we fed
Raven                                                               Steller's jay
Hermit Thrush                                             Black-capped chickadee
Wilson's Warbler                                             Rufous humingbird
Hairy Woodpecker                                             Redpolls
Bald Eagle                                                      Red breasted nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee                                    Junco
Black billed Magpie                                    3-toed woodpecker
Rufous Humingbird                                    Pine grosbeak (m&f)
Red-breasted Nuthatch                                    Pine siskin
Dark-eyed Junco
Three-toed Woodpecker
Pine Grosbeak (m & f)
Blackpoll warbler
Pine siskin
Downey woodpecker
Sharp-shinned hawk
Great horned owl
Violet green swallow

Dad saw:  Hawk, either red-tailed or sharp-shinned
                        and, either red-tailed immature or Goshawk; also a falcon, probably peregrin

My friend's story: Waxwing diversion

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

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Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

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