Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Non-birders Need To Know About Birders - A Holiday Special

Winter is here, bringing extremely cooperative Ring-billed Gulls. Chatham County, NC.
As the holidays roll around, we birders will be momentarily forced into sitting around the house conversing with our families. This unfortunately coincides with Novembird and the ensuing end-of-year rarity extravaganza that tends to occupy most of our minds. While we are sitting around staring at the dead turkey at the center of the table, we can't help but lust for that Fork-tailed Flycatcher reported the night before. So here are some tips, to share with your non-birding family, to help prevent any misunderstandings and allow the holidays to run smoothly.

1. Family is Always There, Rarities are Not.
Many birders will at least make an effort to spend some time with family and friends over the holidays, and this is nice. But as soon as that rare bird is reported from the coast, just know that it pains us to be with you. Not because we don't like you, it's just that there is a bird out there that may never be seen in the state again. And we'd rather drive down to see it - you can join us if you'd like! (Side Note to Birders - Please do not abandon your fam too much. They can barely tolerate this).

2. There Will Always Be CBCs.
This is pretty straightforward. Christmas Bird Counts are a birding tradition - even more longstanding than most family traditions celebrated during the holidays. So just acknowledge that we will be out in the freezing cold for a few days this December. It's a part of who we are.

3. Bird Books Always Make Good Gifts
I remember last year I was gifted Seawatching and spent hours of Christmas Day just reading it again and again. Birders are a strange people that genuinely like to learn, so books are always an excellent present. Field guides to obscure countries are an especially good choice. Any day we get a new field guide is like's wonderful.

4. New Year's Day is Magical
You will NOT see us on New Year's Day. Do not worry. The new year resets our year lists and we feel obligated to get as many new year birds as possible, as soon as possible. For some bizarre reason, we just can't stand waiting until the Second. Some people may see this as futile because the list will just reset on the next New Year's Day, but whatever, we like it. Last year I picked up a Blue Jay at 12:10 AM after it called from being awakened by our fireworks. And I immediately eBirded it.

5. We Are Strategic in our Travel Plans
If a birder has family who lives in a state they haven't birded much, there's a good chance they'll want to scope out new territory. Or if said birder is a huge state lister, they may want to stick around to chase any CBC-rarities. But with any travel plans, the birder will have ulterior motives.

Hopefully these will help ease any tensions birders have with their non-birding families. Do you have any tips for the holidays?