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My Life’s Birds: #370

January 27, 2010
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September 15, 1995 – Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Mo – The four months between May of 1995 and September of 1995 were the longest stretch I had gone without a life bird since I began keeping lists.  It sounds bizarre to say it now, as I sit on the cusp of a year-long drought, but for a mad keen young birder used to the vicarious thrill of a new bird it can be enough to put you off the hobby.  I was still hooked on the novelty of the chase and my huge year in 1994 that took in not just Florida and not just Florida and Texas, but the three biggies of Florida, Texas and Arizona was almost too much too fast.  I was a bird junkie, and without my regular fix I was threatening to pass straight through withdrawals and into a healthy rehabilitation.  Or perhaps more likely, I was running the risk of seeing too much too fast, of getting burned out.  And no one wants that.

After all, I was in high school now and if I didn’t want to be destined to be known as the dorky kid walking around with the Spotted Owl t-shirt (and looking back, I have a hard time seeing how that didn’t become my reputation as a freshman), I’d have to make some changes.  Involvement in extracurricular activities put a crimp in my birding style, and the days in the field became fewer and farther between.  In fact, the whole fall of 1995 I’ll bet I had the opportunity to bird only a few times, but a walk around the Springfield Nature Center on a chilly September day was all it took to spot a solitary Olive-sided Flycatcher in the leafless branches towards the top of a giant sycamore.  A bird that finally broke my drought.

See, it wasn’t just that it had been so long, it was that the birds that were left were less flashy, more difficult to ID, or harder to find in Missouri any time of the year. The low-hanging fruit had largely been picked, at which point I turned to other pursuits that offered a little more flash and dance, largely precipitated by my aforementioned arrival at high school.   Birding was becoming less important, for better or for worse.  The Olive-sided Flycatcher I saw that day remains a symbol of that slow descent into the life of a non-birder that lasted nearly 10 years.

10 years lost to time and less defined by birds, but not completely absent of them.  I think we all know that that would be impossible.

photo from wikipedia

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