Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No, Not At All, and Yes: Confessions of a Female Birdwatcher

Birdwatchers. They are everywhere, yet they are nowhere. They blend in to the populace when not in their birding attire (khakis, vests, floppy hats, binoculars, scopes, tripods, cameras, etc.). They could even pass for "normal". You may not know by looking at someone that they are, in fact, a birdwatcher. They do not don their birding "plumage" unless they set out specifically for this task, and then the average person would have no clue where these people go. As a result of this, we are a little-known and poorly-understood people.

In addition to this fact, birdwatching is, without a doubt, one of the nerdiest hobbies that have ever been conceived by God or Man. There are nerdier things out there of course.....entemology, math, physics, Dungeons and Dragons, "graphic novels", and arguably, "gaming". But, aside from Dungeons and Dragons, these people at least do not look ridiculous while pursuing their passions. Although it is anybody's guess, it has long been hypothesized that many people become drawn to this hobby because of personal differences with the rest of society. Some of us suffer, quite obviously, of various social "disorders". Many birders who lack a sense of humor (which is a lot of them), however, would never admit their problems, and so many questions remain.

To shed some light on this problem, I have spread my legs and given birth to The Human Birdwatcher Project (HBP). This massive undertaking, made possible only by massive grants from undisclosed sources, will shed some light on the reality of the birdwatcher. Today I bring you my first interview with a self-professed birder. She is a young adult female with good plumage, and gave us, here at the HBP, something to think about.

Seagull Steve (SS): Please state your name and occupation:

Liz: I am Elizabeth Donadio, I think I'm a wildlife biologist. Someday I would like to become an acupuncturist and part-time yoga instructor as well. And....I want a goat. I want to learn to milk the goat and make cheese. Or, you know, goat cheese. Any kind of cheese actually. I just love cheese.

SS: And you consider yourself a "birdwatcher"?

Liz: Mmhmm, I do. I like to watch the birdies.

SS: What deep-seated issues to do you grapple with on a daily basis?

Liz: (Sighs) Mmmmmm. Ok. Well I don't know where Im going next. I guess its been that way for um going on 4 years. Also, I am so poor, so poor, and I cant really afford food right now.....but I feel like a butterball. Therefore its a positive thing that I cant afford food because I'm losing weight fast. These are personal issues.

SS: Do you suffer from any diseases or disorders?

Liz: Um, I have degenerative arthritis in my right hip, it actually hurts really bad. I stopped jogging. I will someday need a hip replacement. Oh, Im hypoglycemic. You know how I go up and down? I just don't ever pay attention to it. I go along on the roller coaster ride. (Coughs) Mmhmm. Other than that I think I'm really fucking healthy.

SS: Were you abused as a child?

Liz: Hmmmm......not that I recall.

SS: Why do enjoy watching birds?

Liz: This is the weirdest fucking interview ever. Why is this jumping from "were you abused as a child" to "why do you enjoy watching birds"? Well there's a lot of reasons. I guess.....its hard to put into words...I guess. Watching birds makes me happy....and why does it make me happy? Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmm. I don't know how to describe it. I cant really express it. It is like fucking spiritual for me. You know how I cried in that canyon with the hummingbirds in Arizona? I know its weird but thats what it is. It takes me out of myself and makes me really not think about....it takes me out of my head. Birds are really sexy and I like to look at them. There are so many kinds and they are so diverse. These Apapane are so fast. It brings up the animal instinct in me to hunt. Thats why I like nest searching. We have instincts to hunt, you know? They are so fast and so hard to follow. I love them, they are so kinetic, they are hella crazy.

SS: Do you consider yourself attractive in any human way?

Liz: (clears throat) Huh. To some degree.

SS: Do other people consider you attractive in any human way?

Liz: Some. I think. Mmmhmm. I think the boobs.....I think the boys like the boobs. Some girls too. The big ones. Interesting.

SS: Why should people care about birds?

Liz: Why shouldn't they care? I dont see any reason why people shouldnt care about them. Why do people care about anything?

SS: Do you find that you have problems "fitting in" with the rest of society?

Liz: Yes I do. For the most part yeah, like the mainstream, mmhmm. There's people out there that understand us though.

SS: And do you think this is what drove you to this hobby?

Liz: No. I dont think so.....that would be fucking weird I think. Actually.....yeah. But its not completely direct. I think so. I don't fit in so Im going to go look at things that wont judge me. In general, what I do in my free time in general is because of this. I used to do these sorts of things to make me feel good, like hiking, but then I made friends who did these things who did not talk about these things. I got into birds when I went to Humboldt and it started happening because there were people there who were into it. They were like, "let's go birding!" and I went. Then I felt like I loved doing this. So, in some ways, no, but at the same time, not at all, and yes.

SS: What do you think about the fact that many birders actually do very little to help birds and the environment in general? Buying expensive optics and paying admission to get into a state park is not going to save the world.

Liz: I think if they don't do anything to help, then maybe for them its a different thing than it is for me. Im a fucking jackass.....I fucking fly everywhere, I'd like to THINK that I help birds. Maybe for them its asthetic. Birds are pretty. And then there's those birders....where its a competition, and that's selfish. They make lists. They're all about the lists. Maybe its the selfish birders who are not attempting to help birds.

SS: What is your favorite bird and why?

Liz: I don't have a favorite. I have a favorite now in this moment. Rights now its Apapane. Why? Because they are fucking amazing and they are here where I can appreciate them on a daily basis. They wake me up in the morning. If they werent here, where I'm living (editor's note: she is referring to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the Big Island of Hawaii), life would be completely fucking different. There is one that comes down low and I can see it through my window in the morning, it doesn't know I can see it. They are normally so hard to see because they are so fast. I like the white-eyes and Amakihi, but I love the red birds.

SS: Are you aware that much of society shuns you and persecutes you for your passion?

Liz: No. Are you serious? I think that's dramatic. I don't think thats true, I think thats ridic. I don't believe that. I'm an optimist.

So there it is people. I will leave this to you for interpretation...but I warn you, there is Truth in this Madness, and I suggest you take it to heart.

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