Bird Watching 101


You might not guess that I am a bird watcher at first glance, because I don't wear binoculars around my neck like Miss Jane on The Beverly Hillbillies.
But that is only because binoculars make me nauseous, unless they are hanging around my neck. But if I look through the holes and try to focus, I have to close one eye, which takes the bi right out of the noculars.
And noculars are shitty for looking at birds.
Or anything, really.
And secondly, even if binoculars are just hanging around my neck, not making me nauseous, they are not my style.

I prefer to watch birds with my bare eyeballs like I do everything in life, unless of course, it is in print.
And these eyes of mine have seen more than one bird fly into my windshield.
Which is upsetting.
It is just as upsetting as that old Alfred Hitchcock movie that I saw as a kid. I think that is when I first started noticing our fine feathered friends, especially when they gathered along the roads and lined up on telephone wires.
Here in Wisconsin when Spring rolls around, our state bird flies home to sing the good news.
That bird, in case you are not up on all of your state birds, would be the robin.
We here in Wisconsin are very fond of robins.
Because robins have orange breasts.
And we love orange breasts.
Well, I love orange.
Whether I love breasts or not, is personal.
We also delight in our robins because every Spring there is that first "Hey! I saw a robin!" competition.
My sister Louisa always wins.
She sees a robin a month before I ever do.
And when my mom didn't have the restricted view that she has now, she kicked everybody's ass.
A few years back the first robin of the season that I noticed, never went away.
He seemed to be infatuated with his own reflection, much like number forty-five, in our window, the one that is way the hell up there at the peak of the house.
My husband Sven got tired of all the beak-tap, tap, tapping, so he pulled out a fireman's ladder, set it on a plank, stretched it out, climbed up there and taped a newspaper to the inside of the window to block that robin's view of himself. I thought Sven was cleaning the window, when I saw him up there, but he said he already cleaned it the year before. And then he put the ladder away.
That robin came back the next morning and he just moved over to the right about two inches, and he tapped at his beautiful self for the rest of summer and that newspaper never moved until Sven had to clean that window because the next year rolled around, and it was time.
But there are many more varieties of birds besides robins.
And it seems that so many have taken a liking to me.
They are always trying to get my attention.
"Hey Millie," they sing.
And then they shit upon me from above.
If I am inside, they do not mind dropping off their kind greetings on top of my car.
And then there are some birds who are just plain old showoffs when it comes to Millie Noe.
There was that one day that Sven and I were paddling our canoe down a river. It was just after breakfast and our entire life was stuffed in between us inside garbage bags. I happened to be sitting there with my paddle resting across my sunburned knees as an Osprey was circling above in the clear blue sky.
Sven stopped paddling too and we both watched that bird turn himself into a torpedo, shoot down to the water, beak first, wings tucked.
That guy soared back up through the glass ceiling of H2O with a fish tight in his claws and he flew away with my horoscope sign, flopping helplessly in the air.
This scene took place during the old, "Look Honey, a red winged black bird," Folgers commercial, era, where the couple celebrated by brewing a cup of coffee.
On a scale of having spotted a red winged black bird sitting on a fence or witnessing an osprey diving into the river and pulling out a live fish right in front of you, it seemed like Sven, and I deserved a much larger reward than coffee.
But we had no idea where we'd packed our stash.
Another time I stirred up a family of wild turkeys.
This again took place early in the morning. Steam was rising from bent grass covered in dew as I walked my dog at the time, Dakota, on the path. I happen to believe that Dakota is the one who stirred up all the turkeys, but that is not the point. The point is, if you are wandering around with a cup of coffee in your hand, sleep still in your eyes, wearing your pajama pants and a bed head, waking up a family of wild turkeys is the equivalent of stepping on a landmine, except you do not lose your limbs. But you will definitely lose your hearing and you will absolutely throw that coffee cup into the air.
And you are also going to want to change out of those pajama pants.
One morning I was the last one to get out of bed on the slanted porch at the cottage.
I opened my eyes and thought, "What the?"
Right there on the tree that is strategically placed one foot away from the window was Woody Woodpecker.
And even though that pileated fella was showing off his wild pecking ability just for me, I knew that if I made even the slightest move he would fly away.
The only reason I am not still there watching the cartoon, is because I really had to pee.
And it gets even better.
Last weekend I was cleaning the upstairs bathroom and I stepped out on the deck to shake the rug out.
At that exact moment, I heard the unmistakable honking of geese heading my way.
And then these bare eyes of mine witnessed a goose put his feet out in front of him and skid halfway across the pond, leaving a wake behind him, come to a complete halt and sit down. He then honked to his girlfriend in the sky and then she skids in with her feet out in front and she slides in right next to him.
It was adorable.
Then I shook out my rug and they started bitching about me.
And that same afternoon I met my sister Louisa at the cottage because it was really nice out everywhere, except at the cottage, where the wind was howling, and the lake looked like an ocean with Tsunami waves and the temperature was very different than where we both just came from.
We sat on the deck under a blanket, hair straight behind us and Louisa says, "Millie, is that a loon out there?"
It was not.
It was one of those, Amber, Crombie and Finches.
Okay, fine, they are called cormorants.
But we could not remember that name.
We never can.

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