My fear of birds began on a roof top in Brooklyn, New York. My mom had taken us to visit one of her friends and being bored, the kids decided to go exploring through the apartment building. We ended up on the roof not knowing that the steel door had slammed and locked behind us.
It was a hot day so being on the roof allowed us to catch a cooling breeze and we relished the naughty feeling of knowing we were someplace we shouldn’t be. Further along the roof we found a large pigeon coop filled with birds. I don’t know who did it (it wasn’t me), but someone got the bright idea to open the doors to the coop. The birds flew out and I was surrounded by hundreds of flapping wings swirling around my head. I freaked. So did the other kids. We ran to the door only to find it was locked and we were trapped. Of course this heightened our panic which, it seemed, caused the birds to swarm around us even more.
Eventually someone in another building heard us screaming, crying and pounding on the steel door and we were rescued. In that hyperventilating pant that you only experience after surviving a near-death experience, we fell gratefully into our parents’ arms and sobbed with relief.
Years later I remember watching Hitchcock’s The Birds on television. It terrified me and made me re-live my roof top ordeal. I’m surprised I didn’t need therapy.
I eventually overcame my fear of birds in my early 20s when I bought a young parakeet as a pet. That little critter followed me everywhere throughout the house; landing on my shoulder or head whenever I stopped. Being a young married woman, living in the suburbs and pregnant with my first child, I was very lonely so that little bird became my closest friend. I was devestated when I found it dead in its cage.
I never gave much thought to birds in the ensuing years until I moved out here to my lakeside lair. In the spring I began to see birds I had never noticed before so I bought a cheap pair of binoculars and a field guide. While sipping wine on my front patio I invented a game called Beach Bird Bingo. Rules are: See a bird. Identify bird in field guide. Take another sip of wine. After awhile, you see twice as many birds!
So how does all this tie in with Jane Hathaway? If you remember the old sit-com, The Beverly Hillbillies you will remember the character Jane Hathaway, loyal, love lorn secretary to skin flint bank manager Mr. Drysdale. One of the episodes I most remember is the one where Jane was all dressed up in her safari wear on her way to go bird watching. Nancy Kulp, the actor who portrayed Jane, really played this up and I remember laughing at how geeky she looked in that get-up.
Well Jane/Nancy may just get the last laugh. Since I have taken up bird watching I have binoculars I wear on a harness, a safari vest to hold pad, paper, bug spray, sunscreen, canteen and field guides and a floppy yellow hat. I look way too geeky for a coloured gal!
This foray into birdwatching is entirely the fault of our friend Glenda. She’s been birdwatching since she was a child – obviously she never suffered the trauma I experienced as a child. As we started seeing more and more interesting birds, we’d give Glenda a call to ask about them. Then we made the big mistake of inviting her to visit us so that we could go look for birds at Point Pelee National Park. Frustrated with the dinky little binoculars we had, we wound up buying real nice binoculars at the Pelee Wings Nature Store just outside of the park – clever location that. By the end of the day Glenda had us hooked so it’s all her fault I dress up like Jane Hathaway.
This fall my partner and I made several visits to Holiday Beach Migration Observatory to observe the annual hawk migration and count. At their annual Fesitval of Hawks we even adopted a female sharp-shinned hawk. Her band number is 1333-24793 so if you come across her, let us know.