I greatly enjoy bird watching. It’s just another form of harmless stalking really. I indulge all forms of my stalking urges routinely. I waste mindless hours Google stalking random people. I gawk in windows – mainly to see the decor. And I bird watch.
Bird watching is also a compromise hobby for Chris and me. I love bird watching. He loves hiking. I do not so much enjoy the hiking but if we call it bird watching and I can walk slowly and stop frequently – thus guaranteeing I do not sweat, pant, or really get any physical benefit from it at all – I’m in.
Because we are dorks and sincerely hope to pass this unfortunate quality to our offspring, we decided 2012 was going to be our “big year plus baby.” We are going to try to see as many species of birds as possible in the 2012 calendar year – WITH THE KID.
In late December, I started stalking yet another thing online: the MD Osprey bird alerts. There were frequent updates at the end of the month regarding a black headed gull. Black headed gulls are rare in these parts and I was eager to add it to my list.
And that is exactly how I found myself in our Volkswagen Passat, on the morning of December 31, seven month old kid snugged in his car seat, Husband at the wheel. . . headed towards a suburban Baltimore Best Buy parking lot.
Half an hour and half an episode of the borderline annoying NPR show Car Talk later, we pull into the Best Buy parking area of the Hunt Valley shopping center.
“I don’t see any sea gulls,” I moan.
“Over there.” says Chris as he points the car toward a modest flock of sea gulls. “I told you we were going to need the binoculars. How will you ever find the bird without them?
I hiss at him through clenched teeth, “I guess you might be right. I just never thought I would need binoculars in a suburban parking lot, in broad daylight, to ID a damned sea-gull. I hate when he’s right.
“Can’t you drive any closer?” I ask.
Chris patiently explains to me in a slightly patronizing voice that getting much closer will likely cause them to fly away.
At the pinnacle of my silently berating myself for being stupid, a Toyota pulls up. A man gets out of his Camry and starts throwing bread everywhere.
“Why didn’t I think of this? It’s flipping brilliant!” I screech at Chris. “We can just feed them!!”
He forces me out of the car. I walk toward the Bird Feeder. Bird Feeder gives me a look of death. I freeze and scan the small flock from a modest distance.
I have no flipping clue if the bird is there or not. From my distance, they all look-alike. I thought this black headed asshole was supposed to have a big black dot behind its eye. That should have been obvious, no?
Yes, non-birders a black headed gull actually has a chocolate-brown head and then only in the summer and only when fully mature.
I retreat to the car.
But my husband is more persistent than I.
What are we looking for? He asks again as he starts dumping Chex Mix out of the car. It’s not just any Chex Mix mind you. It’s a spicy variety my wonky sister, Tiffany, made for the holidays. She called it “Reindeer Fuel.” It was packaged with a cartoon mock-up of a reindeer with flames shooting out of its ass. I’m sure this isn’t what you’re supposed to feed wildlife. . .but I’m not going to protest.
Good question I say in my most spirited voice. We are looking for. . . .I didn’t even bring a field guide. I did however study pictures of the bird on the always reliable internet and I quickly retrieved the images.
Mac sat in the backseat like a slug. He wasn’t at all impressed by the air show the sea gulls were doing just outside his backseat window.
I start reading the description and show Chris the Internet photos. We are looking for the one with a spot behind the eye. This spot should be a way to distinguish it from all the ring billed gulls in the flock – who mostly always have a dark ring around their beak. All of which in this flock are at various stages of maturity and all look different – juvenile, first winter, second winter, eat an alka seltzer already wouldcha?
Chris is craning his neck every which way tossing out Chex Mix like it’s a gawddamned Mardi Gras parade. I slouch even lower into the passenger seat of the Passat nibbling a peanut butter sandwich. Hey, if you are going into the “wilderness” of a suburban Best Buy parking lot, you best have provisions.
I’m barely looking at this point but Chris has his eagle eye peeled. I’m nearly ready to pack it in. I can’t explain to him all the gulls that look different are just different ages of the same species. The peanut butter is gumming up my mouth.
And then. . .
I see it!! Nearly right beside the driver’s side door of our car is a small gull with a tell-tale spot right behind it’s eye! “THERE!!! It’s there!!!!” I exclaim and Chris sees it immediately too.
Chris throws out even more Chex Mix so I can get out of the car and take photos. We watch for a bit. Mac looks bored as hell in the backseat while Chris and I replay the moment when we spotted it over and over while we watch the little gull hang on the outside of the flock.
That was some pretty amaze-balls Chex Mix: I didn’t need a digiscope, binoculars, or to even leave the car.