My Witt's End

Calling A Thing By Its Proper Name

Bird identification, at times, can be challenging, fun and hazardous to your mental health.

I recently made my annual pilgrimage to Magee Marsh in Ottawa County. It's one of those rites (Or is that rights?) of spring. Magee Marsh, or Crane Creek as some call the place, is possibly the premier spot in the country for seeing the magical mystery tour we birders call migration.

It was a slow day of birding by any standard, well, by Magee Marsh standards. My list indicated 35 species seen in about three hours of searching. The good news was that while the birds were few in number, so were the birders. There was actually room to move on the famous boardwalk. I talked with a few folks I see once a year, usually in this same spot. I'm beginning to believe we migrate with the same irregularity as the birds. Not much happening was the mantra.

As I left the west entrance to the boardwalk I saw a group of birders, gawking and photographing a critter high in a sycamore tree. I wandered over to have a look since in the birding world, where ever two are gathered—there's a reason. This kind of set up—people with binoculars and spotting scopes peering into the trees—has a magnetic quality. By the time I reached the group its number had grown to a dozen, a couple guys wielding cameras with lenses the size of a Volkswagen bug—and just as expensive. The cacophony of bird names being tossed around by the group concealed the bird's true identity. I glanced at a couple of the photographers. One rolled his eyes, the other shrugged his shoulders. Finally, a fellow with a huge camera and voice to match, shouted "It's a damned leucistic robin!"

The leader of the opposition turned on him and said, in an equally loud voice, "It is not! It's an American Robin!"

Okay, 10:30 am, lunch time somewhere. I'm outta here.

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