On Being a Bad Birdwatcher

I glanced out the window this morning and saw a bird high up on the wire.
It was partially blocked by the bare branches of a red maple and power
lines, feathers fluffed against the cold wind.

Kestrel, I thought.
I grabbed the binoculars and, sure enough, it was an American Kestrel.

American Kestrel 006
© Tracy Abell 2012

I smiled and thought about Simon Barnes who wrote one of my absolute
favorite books HOW TO BE A (BAD) BIRDWATCHER.**

Simon Barnes wrote about jizz*** (I know, such an unfortunate term), defining it as               “the art of seeing a bird badly and still knowing what it is.” The more you watch birds,      the more information you internalize, and as Mr. Barnes points out, “Familiarity        enables you to process scanty information and interpret it in a meaningful way.”

When I see a bird in flight, one moving in a bouncy up-and-down pattern,
I know it’s a finch.  If I catch a glimpse of a bird on the ground, scratching in the
leaves, I identify it as a spotted towhee. If a bird flaps past me, trailing long tail
feathers, I recognize it as a magpie.

This makes me happy. Because no matter what else is going on in my life —
parenting worries, frustrating quest for publication, search for part-time
employment, etc. — I am a bad birdwatcher and I’ve got jizz.
It’s a life-long condition and no one can take it away from me.

** From the opening chapter: “…[that’s] what being a bad birdwatcher is
all about. It is just the habit of looking. Born-againers talk about bringing
Jesus into Your Life; this book is an invitation to bring birds into your life.
To the greater glory of life.”

*** Apparently, it’s inadvisable to search Google for the etymology for jizz
so I’m content to accept the one theory suggesting it’s a contraction of just is.
As in: “How do you know the lower bird in the photo below is a northern flicker?”
“Just is.”  

American Kestrel 002
© Tracy Abell 2012