July 8, 2007
Growing up, Kim and I were subjected to the occasional birding excursion by our parents. They were, if anything “heavy casual” birders, which meant very few trips whose primary purpose was birding. There was the occasional day trip for that purpose, but the only multi-day trip that I remember was over Thanksgiving one year, when we headed to South Texas. Kim actually opted to be dropped in San Antonio to stay with my dad’s parents. I was in what I envision as a very brief phase where I was interested in birding. I suspect that phase was triggered by a siting of a painted bunting on a day trip. To this day, I’m fascinated that such a multi-colored bird would actually live natively in southeast Texas.
After Kim and I left college, my parents slowly started to increase their interest in birding. This was fueled in part by their long-time friendship with Karen Johnson, who has been an avid birder for years.
Retirement hit…and they really went nuts. Thus, extended trips to the Galapagos Islands, the South Pole, Easter Island (not much birding there), Ecuador, Canada, and any number of places in the U.S. They returned from one trip to Maine late one week, and by the following Tuesday, were driving out to New Mexico after dinner at our house because my dad had picked up a tip on some rare species or other having temporarily taken up residence there.
Needless to say, whatever itch I might have had to scratch in that area was subtle at its strongest and passed decades ago. Kim hasn’t shown any interest either. But…did it skip a generation? Benton — no interest. Alana — too early to tell.
Carson…loves it. It’s not just that he loves the idea of using binoculars (which he does — he considers binoculars one type of spy gear, so they work well in his active imagination). The little cuss actually learns birds! As you might imagine, my folks feed that interest as much as they can.
Last weekend, we were down visiting Kitty and Steve Massey in San Antonio. Their house backs up to a golf course and has a very active mix of wildlife: Egyptian geese, deer, garden snakes, nutria rats (extremely unwelcome), and a variety of other birds. Carson was out back on Sunday morning and came in asking what you call a “black bird with red wings.” Steve jumped in and said, “That’s a red-winged blackbird, also known as a Baltimore oriole.” Carson didn’t miss a beat: “It’s a red-winged blackbird. That’s different from a Baltimore oriole.” There was a brief discussion on the subject — I tended to side with Carson, but Steve grew up following the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, so he was firm in his assertion.
The dispute was settled by a bird book.
Carson was right.
When the rest of us went for a walk later that morning, Steve stayed behind to dig up a picture of a Baltimore Orioles uniform that showed a black bird with red shoulders. He was unsuccessful, and had to admit that he was corrected by a five-year-old! But he admitted it gracefully!