In January, Linda and I were asked if we would like the opportunity to take a fun early morning stroll, bird watching in the Bentsen State Park with an experienced team of bird watchers known as twitchers.
So, on Saturday morning, I was up early to shave, shower, make the coffee and take the dogs for a long walk before we met this group of twitchers. But first, Linda had to do her hair.
The name “twitcher” is often substituted with “twit" by small boys and beer-drinking barflies who may not have understood the intellectual and scientific value of accumulating a lifelong list of bird names.
When sighting a bird, the twitcher rule is to silently raise your left arm palm out and slowly point to the bird with your other hand. This is difficult when holding a camera, binoculars, and notepad.
I should have followed this rule, I was told, when I first sighted my adult Harris’s Hawk.
Instead, I took photographs, talked to Linda, and watched while the hawk flew away. But then, I am not a twitcher.
As we walked towards the state park from the car park, we passed the construction site for “The Wall.” People were standing around with cameras and binoculars, looking like twitches.
I asked Jill, our guide, “Why were the birdwatchers gathering at the construction site?"
“They arrive every day,” Said Jill, "hoping to see a crane."
I asked, “Do you know what they call a female birdwatcher who tells jokes like yours?”
“No,” she replied innocently.
“Comedi-hens!” I said with a smile.
"Seriously," she said, "do you know what you must not do if you find a nest with eggs during this walk?"
“No,” I said. “What must I not do?”
Jill replied, “You must not get egg-sighted!”
On our walk back from the bird hide, we discussed the different bird calls that distinctive groups of birds make.
“As an example,” said Jill. "Last year, they found a high number of dead crows on the highway that passes through Banff in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Research Ornithologists suspected it was due to vehicles hitting the crows.”
This was surprising because crows have adapted to feeding on carcasses on the side of highways by having two birds watch from the trees while the other birds’ feed.
When a vehicle approaches, these two crows will call out a warning, allowing the other birds to fly off the road.
After analyzing the accidents, it was found that 80% of crows were killed by trucks, and only 20% were killed by cars.
The result of this study, paid for by the Canadian Federal government, concluded crows are good at yelling "caw, caw, caw” and not good at yelling “truck, truck, truck.”
Jill said on parting, “With your sighting of the Harris’s Hawk, coupled with your sense of humor, you may become a twitcher.”
“Or a twit,” added Linda.