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My Life’s Birds: #447

December 1, 2010

February 4, 2008 – Monroe, NC The life bird was an afterthought, really.  Something tacked on because I was in the area.  It’s not often that you can say that, but when the main course is North Carolina’s very first record of Scott’s Oriole it’s perhaps just a little understandable that the state’s some-teenth record of a little hummingbird fails to garner as much interest in the state birding community.  I had, after all, a mind for a Big Year, and everyone knows that state first records are not something the putative Big Year-er can afford to take lightly.  If you’re serious about it, and I definitely imagined I was at this point, you simply do not miss birds like this.

But this post is not about the Scott’s Oriole, which I saw by the way, and which was very cool.  The bird was coming to the home feeding station of the owner of the local wild bird supply store in Conover, just north of Charlotte, and not more than a couple hour’s drive from home.  I was one of three birders that morning who trudged through her kitchen to set up on the back porch and just the latest of a string of birders, practically a who’s who of glass-slingers from across the Carolinas, who’d come over the last few days.   All to take advantage of the kindness of one bird-feeder.

The question of what to do after the Oriole was still unanswered, however.  What good is traveling all that way if I can’t make it worth my while beyond the incredible Icterid.  Turns out there was another bird that was relatively nearby. Or at least, I could adjust my route home to take advantage of it.  Like the Oriole though, it was at a private residence.  So I did what any eager birder would do, I emailed the homeowner and asked if I could hang out on her porch to see her bird, a perfectly reasonable request for birders but one that, no doubt, would likely get you arrested in any other non-avian situation.  As you might expect, she said it would be fine even though no one would be home, and that’s how I found my lifer Calliope Hummingbird while sitting alone on the back porch of a stranger’s home in rural North Carolina.

The thing is, what the hummingbird host did wasn’t unusual, nearly any other birder would likely do the same.  We’re proud of our birds, especially if something really unusual that generates a certain amount of interest, and we should be proud of the culture we’re all a part of of that makes opening your home to strangers with nothing in common save an interest in birds such a normal occurrence.  Maybe there’s something about birding that inherently suggests trustworthiness.  Maybe we’re just crazy.  It’s probably a little of both in the end, but without this bizarre and wonderful custom we’ve cultivated, I would have missed both of these birds.

A reason to be thankful I’m a birder.

  1. Lori Owenby permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:40 am

    I remember that day too, Nate! It was the day I had the pleasure of meeting you . . . .and the fourth or fifth time I saw the Scott’s Oriole as it was practically in my backyard. What a wonderful, trusting community we as birders have–and you are very right about others thinking it “odd” or even calling the police because we loiter too long at a place just to see a bird. If only we could make them understand . . . . . the world would be a much better place!

  2. December 3, 2010 5:38 am

    I just read your “Birder Profile”.

    However, I’ll make sure to paint the next Black-headed Gull I’ll send out to NC in neon green. You’ll manage that, right?

    And the bear’s off again.


  3. December 3, 2010 6:51 am



  4. Nate permalink*
    December 3, 2010 9:51 am

    @Lori- Indeed!

    @Jochen- That’s an old picture. The bear is back now.

  5. December 5, 2010 2:09 pm

    Congratulations on the Calliope, they are fantastic little spirits. Also, kudos for using the phrase “glass slingers”.

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