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The Catbird Seat: Lots to Like

By Pete Dunne; Illustration by Jeff Sipple
things to like about birding and birders

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This is a column about why I like birding. It is an easy column to write because there is a lot to like about birding.

One of the things I like most is birds.

Another thing I like is liking birds.

Yet another thing I like is writing about the birds I like to like. And talking to other people who like to like birds.

As you might imagine, a lot of people like birds. Nice, friendly people. The kind of people you like to like.

As is our fashion, we very likable birders all stand around very likable-like, cheerful and friendly, eminently satisfied and filled with goodwill and so on.

We talk about birds we’ve seen. We talk about birds we really like to see. We talk about birds we’d really like to see because we haven’t seen one yet.

Like Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, for instance. A bird that it just so happens I haven’t…

Okay, maybe I lied a tiny bit. Lied by omission. Sometimes liking birds leads to a small measure of unlikable frustration.

This smallest level of frustration that leads to not liking birding as much as you liked it before happens when a bird you’d really like to see (e.g. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck) shows up in your favorite birding spot.

But you don’t.

I know it’s silly, but we birders have this penchant for liking birds we haven’t seen even more than we like the ones we have seen.

When you finally do see a bird you’d really like to see the experience is especially gratifying. But missing a bird that you’d really like to see (like Black-bellied Whistling-Duck) is especially ungratifying.

Commonly, the way birders find out about birds they really wanted to see (but didn’t) is while they are standing around with a bunch of likable birding friends. Talking casually about birds they would really like to see, etc., and someone pipes up.

“What? You mean you didn’t see the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks? They were here for three days. It was all over the listserve…”

“Oh, right. You’re not on the listserve. Well didn’t anybody call you?”

Even in a place as likable as your favorite birding hotspot, and speaking with someone as likable as a fellow birder, this is not a likable situation. In fact, it really, really triggers borderline unlikable thoughts.

Almost unprintable thoughts.

Right off, the bird that only moments earlier was one you’d really like to see suddenly becomes the bird you’d like to see more than anything in the whole world.

Then, there is a less than likable tendency to want to rip the larynx out of the likable birder who failed to call you about that most desirable of all birds and feed it to the nearest cat. Before going home and mixing a couple or three good stiff drinks. Preparatory to going online and electronically peeing on the legs of all your rotten, selfish, ex-birding friends who failed to alert you to the presence of the bird that (now and forever more) means more to you than life itself.

The stupid, lousy, web-footed miscreant that showed up, stayed three whole days and didn’t have the freaking decency to give you one miserly glimpse [stop; pour another drink].

Stupid duck! Freaking stupid duck. Almost as stupid as this stupid hobby.

If there isn’t a season on Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks there should be. In fact, they ought to put a bounty on the ugly, lipstick-lipped, little…

Now, who could be calling me this time of night.

“Hello? Oh, it’s you. Boy you’ve got a hell of a…What? Really? Where? No kidding. You think they’re the same birds? Well that’s really great. I mean it’s fantastic. You know that’s the bird I want to see more than…hey thanks for calling and letting me know. Love you for life. I’ll be there at dawn. Great! See you then.”


Like I was saying before, people who like seeing birds they really like really like birding.

I mean…what’s not to like?

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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