Friday, January 3, 2020

Fri-D: "No."

I was 19, and had transmogrified from a kid who didn't even know other people looked at birds to a rabid birder. Interning as a naturalist and do-everything-elser (a common affliction of naturalists) at Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, one May morning I saw a Prothonotary Warbler. (NOT the bird in the photo.) Or so I thought.

My boss was Rich Kane, who will ever be enshrined in my mind as the dean of NJ birders. The mold was broken when they made Rich, and while he wasn't exactly my birding mentor, I learned a TON from the master. For example, when Pete Dunne told me in great excitement that he had this cassette tape produced by a guy named Bill Evans of the nocturnal flight calls of migrating thrushes just in time for my first World Series of Birding with Pete (of what eventually were more than 25), I said, "Uh, I already know them." That was from Rich, or RK as he was known in American Birds and Records of New Jersey Birds.

Anyhow, I told RK about my Prothonotary, which I had seen behind the Hoffman building in upland woods, and he said one word:


Ouch. Then he asked what it had looked like, and when I told him he said, "Was it even a warbler?"

Double ouch.

To this day, I don't know what I saw other than that it was not a PRWA, but Rich had done me a great service, though perhaps less diplomatically than I now try to be.

For example, when the recent Mountain Bluebird appeared in Cape May, we were watching it fraternizing with some Eastern Bluebirds, and a birder I did not know exclaimed, "There are TWO Mountain Bluebirds!" Another birder chimed in, "Yes! There are!"

No. Maybe it was just me, but the "we" I refer to included pretty much everybody who was anybody in the Cape May birding community, from O'Brien to Crossley to Lanzone to Whittle and many others, and not just from Cape May. All watching one, count'em, one (1) Mountain Bluebird.

I simply said, "I only see one Mountain Bluebird." The door was wide open, but the two 2-MOBL'ers didn't walk through, and I let it drop. But I encourage everyone to walk through open doors. . . I sure do. Thanks, Rich.

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