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My Life’s Birds: #337-338

September 2, 2009

September 24, 1994 – Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Mo – Birding is, by it’s very nature, an activity that works well in solitude. It’s quiet and contemplative. For many birders that’s part of what makes it so darn appealing. The ability to get out and commune with some nature, to enjoy simply being out under the sky, to work out those difficult identifications in your own time with no deadline hanging over you or boss breathing down your neck. Birding is often at its best when it’s solo.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t add a like minded friend from time to time to mix things up. And why not two? More eyes are better right? Why not ten? A hundred? If you’re ready for that, then you’re ready for a birding convention.

In 1994, the Audubon Society of Missouri held it’s fall meeting at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, not more than an hour north of home. ASM had been one of my benefactors in attending Camp Chiricahua the previous summer, and to show my gratitude it was good for me to do a little meet and greet, press the flesh and make physical contact with the folks that had been so generous. And the birding was like to be good too with good numbers of fall migrants crossing back through the state. The forests surrounding the lake promised to be full of them. We signed up for a field trip that took in some of the back arms for shorebirds too, but given our haul in Kansas the month before, it was a Yellow-throated Vireo that took the bird of the day honors.

Second best though, was a Black-throated Green Warbler, a little jewel in a flock of chickadees and titmice that responded to a Screech Owl trill by one of the leaders. It wasn’t long after that that my dad had figured out how to do the Screech Owl call himself, a useful weapon in any North American birder’s arsenal. For whatever reason I hesitated to add the owl call to my own skillset. Perhaps by this point I was getting somewhat unsure about how my bird devotion would play in high school, because by the time you learn the owl trill you’re long gone. A 14 year old has a pile of insecurities anyway, a well-practiced Screech Owl call is the icing on the entirely wrong kind of cake.

But that was for another time. We met birders from across the state and talked birds long after sunset (but not too long, there are field trips in the morning). We watched slide shows of the 10 best birds in the state the previous year (I think my dad and I even discovered one), and basically enjoyed being in the company of people for whom you don’t have to deny your bird crazed self. It’s a great feeling. One every birder should seek to share every once in a while.

photos from wikipedia

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