Monthly Archives: May 2010

Hazards of the Hobby

Initially, I thought bird watching would be great for my Physical Fitness Plan. As you may have gleaned from my somewhat cerebral upbringing, I certainly didn’t grow up as Sporty Spice. What this means, however, is that I’m always on the lookout for a sport that I’ll be able to engage with. Seriously. I don’t just want any sport — I want something that will challenge me, inspire me, enthral me, captivate me; I want the Sport to End All Sports.

Needless to say, this also explains why I don’t exercise all that much. I mean, I sport-shop all the time: I’ve had brief affairs with the Elliptical machine, the rowing machine, the treadmill (a very brief fling; we didn’t really speak to one another afterwards), the Pilates class (on-again, off-again type of affair, on-going), Yoga (a “distance makes the heart grow fonder” type of affair; yoga is always better in the future-perfect tense, a “would-have-been” type of sport for me), aerobics class (the “wish I never went there” kind of affair), swimming (I think we’re still on, actually), cheerleading (yes, believe it or not, 2 weeks in 9th grade), badminton (yes, YES, YES an “i’m available anytime” kind of thing), and now NIA (a nifty newageish cardio workout that I quite like, even though it feels like I’m one of the dancers during the trance scene in AVATAR — no, we don’t wear blue).

Nothing has really stuck. I thought birding could offer me not only intellectual stimulation (which it does — you try remembering all those species!) but also some sort of ideal, preternaturally astonishing Physical Fitness. I thought it would be the answer to all my sport searching woes.

Well, little did I know that there is such a thing as Warbler Neck. (The photo comes fromĀ here.)

Have you ever tried standing in that position for an hour? Let me tell you, your neck will certainly be letting you know how it feels the next morning! Turns out birding isn’t exactly fabulous for your posture or your neck muscles. I initially thought birding would be a very Zen-like activity, and there’s nothing ZEN-ish about warbler neck (otherwise known as WN in the bird world), that’s for sure. Apparently, morel mushrooms are a “God given cure” to this ailment that affects all birders alike. Who knew? If only I knew how to roam around in the woods and distinguish awesome, WN-curing mushrooms from poisonous ones, I’d be all set.


It’s Spring time. The birds are out and the bees will be soon! In anticipation of the bees and all the fine fine honey I’ll be eating shortly, here’s my favorite bee-like tune. I just heard the most stunning rendition of Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee — transcribed for trumpet. Enjoy!

Wynton Marsallis plays Flight of the Bumblebee

(ps: does anybody know how to link to youtube on wordpress?)


I know all about the dangers of seeing a black cat cross your path. But what about coming upon a howling OWL on a residential street? I hope that constitutes good luck. Great luck, in fact. The poor owl created quite a traffic jam! We all got out and tried to help him across the street; he was resistant and finally hid behind a parked car. I wish I knew what kind of owl it was — grey, furry, about a half-foot tall. Stunningly cute (in spite of its loud yelping). In fact, he looked like a stuffed animal.

Shortly before that, I stopped my car on a different residential street in order to make a phone call. (Ontario law now states that using a cell phone while driving will set you back $155. Great law, overall. And I’m certainly discovering more side streets on account of that law, since I now have to park, then talk.) And suddenly, I saw this:

I’m pretty sure I saw a cardinal. Of course, it could well have been a scarlet tanager — or some other exotic red feathered wonder that lives on the side streets of Toronto. Since I’m only a somewhat birder and very much a pre-beginner at that, I never really know what I’m looking at. (I feel like people are overly modest these days, and call themselves Beginner Birders when they’re already at the stage that they have some 200 odd species under their belt but simply have a hard time remembering the Latin names for things; well, that puts us honest-to-goodness beginners in a rather difficult taxonomical position, so that’s why I have no other choice but to refer to myself as a pre-beginner.) In any event, the bird sighting felt like magic!

I’ll take all of this as two fantastically fabulous omens!


When I set the alarm clock for 5 a.m. last Saturday, and actually woke up at 4:55 a.m., my husband asked me if I was crazy. I’m pretty sure he meant it. I left the question unanswered, got dressed, took my morning calcium & vitamin D combo, had a quick breakfast, and was on my way by 5:25. I packed all-season-wear in my backpack and wore all of it: scarf, mitts, wool hat, Tilley hat, T-shirt, long-sleeve shirt. I’ll admit, I did feel a teeny bit crazed when I realized I woke up before the alarm clock.

It was so windy that I saw a flock of swallows fly backwards at Blenheim Lagoon! (Like many birding joints, I’m learning, this one is a sewage lagoon.) These same swallows (mainly tree swallows) then found a few branches by the lagoon and gripped them, holding on for dear life. I was nearly — literally and metaphorically — blown away by the sight.

Here they are, and the big fat bird in the middle is a Purple Martin, otherwise known as the largest of North American Swallows. The one we saw was stunning, so it was obviously a male. (sigh. not everything in the Bird World is fair.) Did you know that the purple martin gets all its food and water while in flight? I didn’t know that either, but the fabulous website at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology just enlightened me on that, and many other bird-related matters.

If you remember, my husband had also taken to calling me a Bird Nerd. Well, it definitely appears I’m not alone. There is a company based in Leavenworth, WA called — you guessed it — Bird Nerd Company! The company is founded by someone whose daughter nicknamed him a bird nerd. Have a look at their great stuff! You too could be the proud owner of a visor in an assortment of colors, or better yet, a canvas tote bag with a three color silkscreen print:

The back of the bag is even more stunning. It features the dictum “Bird is a Verb!” I just might invest in this handy dandy item soon!