I used to think birders were a bit odd. Easily spotted at any state or national park in their khaki Columbia sportswear with clunky sandals or hiking shoes, they always had a pair of binoculars hanging around their necks. One hand held their current list of bird sightings and the other gripped the Sibley Guide to Birds. Behavior wise, they congregated in gaggles, briskly walking about while staring at bushes and trees until they spotted some bird whose name they quickly added to “the list.” I secretly resolved never to look like or act like those people.
Then, I developed my love of nature and in particular, bird photography. If birders are odd, then I am downright bizarre. I sometimes dress in a drab olive T-shirt and an old pair of men’s camo fatigues from Goodwill. On my feet are brown high-top hiking shoes. Slung over one shoulder is either a camera or collapsed tripod. If I’m walking any distance from my car, I carry a backpack containing additional lenses. I scan every conceivable nook and cranny for a bird to photograph. If the bird is on the ground, then down I go flat on my stomach with my camera glued to my right eyeball. I have flopped unto some disgusting stuff; seaweed (properly known as wrack), slimy algae, and poop. That’s why I wear the old fatigues–the gunk doesn’t show. Get too close, however, and your nose may pick up my latest fragrance–say Vulture Guano or Vintage Fish-bait. Not only that, I have developed an affinity for birders.
My latest venture, on which I dragged two innocent family members, was the noble Quest for a Photo of a Reddish Egret. This worthy pursuit to a beautiful beach on the northern end of Estero Island along Florida’s Gulf Coast took us three hours. After accomplishing the perfunctory settling in (motel, lunch; souvenir shop Frisbee search) we headed for the beach. My family ran for the water. I scooted off down the beach on my quest. Along the way I was laughed at by a Brown Pelican,
and rudely ignored by a passing Snowy Egret.
By this time, my family ceased surf frolicking to find out what I was up to. They found me face down on the algae laced sand snapping furiously away at the bird of my desire, a Reddish Egret.
“This is the bird I came here to find!” I proudly proclaimed to my wondering family. “Oh,” they said. The proverbial cat was out of the bag. I’d “forgotten” to tell them why I wanted to visit this particular island. I confessed. “Someone I know from my camera club shot an image of a Reddish Egret here.” They were slightly less than thrilled, but hung along with me anyway. Soon we found out why the egret preferred this corner of the island–people fished here. They cast nets, and surf fished. In both cases these generous fishermen shared bits of catch or bait with the egret.
After downing this delectable morsel, the Reddish Egret did the only reasonable thing–he went in search of MORE.
As for me, I felt totally satisfied. My quest over, I resolved to spend the rest of my vacation enjoying my family. Well, at least most of it.