A Flight of Fancy


I recently moved to an area near the ocean. It is a bit more rural than other places I’ve lived. A chance to get away from the hustle in an attempt to tame a tired and cluttered brain.

The house is adjacent to a large undeveloped area populated by an abundance of trees. An unexpected variety of wildlife shares the neighborhood. In my short time here, a backyard camera has captured visits by foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, and pumas.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for the diversity of birdlife as well. At night, owls in nearby trees hoot… alone and in pairs. Very calming… until the night I saw a huge one swoop down at our dog. Clearly it had been deceived by his speckled black and white coat, believing him to be a more portable morsel than he turned out to be. It hovered for a moment, certainly disappointed, then disappeared into the darkness.

On morning dog walks, hawks screech at each other across great distances. Flocks of small, medium, and large birds flit about, chirping, warbling, or cawing energetically. I gradually became strangely stimulated by their frenzy.

I had a grandmother whose hobby was bird watching. She could identify every local species by its call. I had considered her interest in all things feathered to be a charming, but eccentric activity. Now, I thought that it might actually be just the right kind of therapy. It was just the sort of thing to help me get through a recent period of melancholy. I could use the distraction.

So, I researched the variety of apps that are most popular for identifying birds. One stood out from the rest. I downloaded it, excited to try to identify a small, particularly cheerful specimen visiting that morning.

The app uses a simple wizard to walk the user through the identification process. The first step… pick the approximate size. Kinda borderline, which size to pick, but no big deal.

The second step… pick one or more colors on the bird. There was no, “I have no idea what color that bird is” option. There was no, “Skip this step” option. I was stuck… right there… one minute in.

While there are certainly other apps that don’t require this step to try to identify a species, I realized that I would really struggle to differentiate many types of birds. Color is often the most distinguishing characteristic… especially from a distance. I have loud and constant tinnitus triggered by spinal surgery many years ago, so identification by chirp isn’t practical. So… this probably wasn’t an ideal hobby for me after all.

In the scope of life challenges, this clearly was no big deal. However, it carried with it the weight of decades of similar roadblocks, blowing the emotional impact way out of proportion.

Melancholy won another round.

2 thoughts on “A Flight of Fancy

  1. Hey, just wanted to say if you’re interested in starting birding by calls, you dont necessarily NEED to start with color differentiation. I used Thayer Birding Software to enter in the names of local species (can be looked up on the software or online) and make lists of “quizzes” to go through that let me learn the birds almost exclusively by sound. It’s tougher than starting with color, sure, but overall it makes ID at a distance or in areas of heavy cover (brush, forest) a lot easier. Hope this helps, sorry this is such a late comment!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s