My fourth bird-watching expedition was to Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island, New York. It was a lot of fun — even though I did make something of an ass of myself (something I am getting really good at).
The birding group composed of maybe 20 men and women, some quite old (some maybe dead), some quite smart and some I haven’t figured out yet; all bedecked in their bird watching gear of brown clothes with binoculars hanging from their necks, was an enthusiastic lot.
My wife the Beautiful AP and I were the rank amateurs in every way. Using our brand-new 8 x 42 powered binoculars every time someone said something such as “Look over there (pointing), a tan-breasted marmalade rotund chick flyer!” I’d put the binocs (being cool that’s what I now call them – binocs) to my eyes and try to focus on the bird – mostly where my fellow birders were pointing.
Inevitably I got branches and tree limbs or ground or marsh grass but I could never find the bird. The magnification of the binocs was great. I mean I could really see the stupid leaves of the stupid trees.
Maybe human eyesight and binoc sight are on a different level?
The bird walk took two hours and at the end of hour number one I had seen some birds. But usually only for a few seconds because those rotten birds could fly. Just as my binocs were honing in on them; off they would go! Pfft! That’s more annoying than someone talking during a movie.
All I was doing was basically tramping through the woods, over the tree roots that were above the ground. (“Please God; don’t let me break my ankle.”) I was sweating like a pig (do pigs sweat?) and fearful I would rub up against some poison ivy which seemed to be growing everywhere.
We came to the lake; a nice lake that was a little low on water since Long Island was not getting much rain. I binoced-in on a bunch that were lazing their way along the shore. Oh, yeah!
Other than huffing and puffing, I had not contributed anything to the bird-walk of our South Shore Audubon team except stuff like “I don’t see anything.” Or, “Is that poison ivy here?” “A yellow tufted what?” “The darn thing flew away!”
Then I saw them! Three Seagulls. Right at lakeside. “Look over there,” I shouted. “Seagulls! Three of them.” I pointed at them as if I were a pro.
Then a woman’s voice from the behind me said, “To a true birder there are no such thing as Seagulls. We just call them gulls. Seagulls don’t exist.”
(Oh, for crying out loud! Lady did you have to ruin my moment?)
My default is usually to say something funny in moments such as these and I went right to my default. I pointed to the “gulls” and said, “See, gulls!” There wasn’t a single laugh; not one stinking laugh. I thought “see, gulls” was funny. I was alone in the world on that one.
My other great moment came about 10 minutes later. I was scouring the lakeshore, trying to find some birds I could point to and make up for my “see, gulls” comment. I didn’t want to be on the outs with my new birding brethren. I had to redeem myself.
Then I saw it. A big bird with a bright orange breast; it was magnificent. “Everyone! Everyone! Across the lake. (I pointed triumphantly.) Over there. A big bird with a bright orange breast!”
Binoculars, far more powerful ones than those I had, held by birders far more experienced than I am, trained on the bird. (Oh, yeah; oh, yeah! Take that “see gull” lady!)
The telescope-man’s voice was kind, “Frank, that’s a pile of garbage.” Everyone laughed.
Listen to me; I still think “see, gulls” was funny.
[Read Frank’s new book I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! Available at Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble and at bookstores.]