Act VII: To Bird or Not To Bird:
There Is No Question: Bird
Eat. Drink. Walk. Run. Bird. Which one of those words don't belong with the rest?
My answer? Run. I partake in all the others, but I sure don't run. Did you pick "bird" thinking it was the only noun? Silly you.
See, there are birdwatchers, and there are birders. And, of course, there are the poor souls who do neither. What's the difference, you ask? Well, poor souls live not knowing what they are missing. Birdwatchers watch birds. Birders bird.
Imagine this scenario: Birdwatcher Sam, Birder Diane, and two Normal People, let's call them Norm and Cliff, spend most of their day on a walk on a beach, oh, let's put them somewhere in Thailand. Exhausted, thirsty, and with a desperate desire for a cold beer, they stop at a beach-side bar named Cheerful's and await service from pregnant, sarcastic waitress Carla. They see, at the exact same moment, Carla taking her time approaching, and a Spoon-billed Sandpiper zipping down the beach. Norm and Cliff greet the waitress and place their order. Sam fumbles around into his daypack, unzipping it to pull out his binoculars, while mumbling "Damn, I should've had these ready. I'll have a cold one, too..." Diane, meanwhile, has vaporized into a cloud of sand down the beach, binoculars, field guide, and camera in hand because they never left those hands. Carla shrugs and walks off to get three beers.
|Birding in Maine, 2001|
|Birdwatching in Montana, ca. 1997|
|Yup, that's me standing up in the back seat of a 1950 Land Rover. Birding, Tanzania, 1982|
|Me. Full-on birdwatcher, partial birder, Amazon River 2014|
|Who would NOT want to see these birds?|
Image from gift shop card, artist Kamol Komolphalin
|Birdwatching, Bhutan 2016|
|Birding, Thailand, 2016|
|As shown in my Bhutan entries, the Hotel Mariya in Bangkok,|
a sweet and comfortable place
|Little did I know that this image of my first approach to Bangkok was the very|
place where we'd find our Spoon-billed Sandpiper
|Outside of bustling Bangkok, sometimes traffic has legs|
|Just a building in the Thai countryside.|
Nick had scoped out this area the day before to look for the Spoon-billed, and had found four of them in one particular pond. He drove straight there with me, and we were fortunate to find two of them pretty much right away. Excellent views, as well. "So this is a bird of interest to birders, eh?" I naively asked. "Uh, you could say that," said Nick, respectful and kind. I hadn't realized the rarity of this bird, its associated conservation efforts due to that rarity, and how desirable it was for birders to see it. From the Audubon Society:
Last year there were only 100 pairs left, and maybe 100 juveniles. The annual drop of breeding-age adults has been a heart-stopping 26 percent, with extinction looming in as little as five years—a result, experts believe, of hunting and trapping on the wintering grounds.
|Image from BSCP, Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project|
BSCP's Facebook Page
|John Gerrard Keuleman lithograph from 1869|
Spoon-billed Sandpiper, breeding plumage
|Little Ringed Plover|
Wow! thought I, taking a closer peek:
Nick, speaking Thai, conversed with the couple. I noticed the husband had some pencils and a sketchbook in hand, drawing casually. Another journal was nearby and open, showing full-color images that were stunning. A bit impressionistic with swirls of color, but also true to the birds themselves. They were remarkable.
I couldn't help but exclaim at this beautiful artistry with clear awe in my voice. Nick translated, and the gentleman smiled while I gushed over his artwork. He handed me his journal, and I took it gingerly, not wanting to be responsible for any damage. Leafing through the pages, I marveled at his extraordinary talent. We chatted a bit via Nick, took some photos, and managed to find those Spoon-billeds for our Swede, much to his glee.
|Me and artist Kamol Komolphalin, just hangin' out at some mudflats|
|I love how his field notes are kept as part of the full image|
So who is Mr. Daeng? That, readers, will be answered next.
|Birdwatch...ahem, well, maybe not. Aravaipa Canyon, AZ, ca. 2006|