For Norma, my birding guru
I arrive at the beach at The Cloisters,
binoculars and notebook in hand, ready for
my first lesson in identifying shore birds.
“Let’s start here,” she says. “What would you call
that bird?” I answer that I’ve always called it a
sandpiper. “That’s like saying someone in the U.S. is
named Smith,” she replies. “It’s a long-billed curlew.”
And we’re off. Excitedly, I write down names in my
notebook: Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling.
I make notes on identification: probes with a sewing-machine
motion, wings flash white and black, bill upturned or straight,
scurries back and forth at water’s edge.
It’s only a start, but from now on everyone named Smith
will have at least a first and middle name.
© by Juliane McAdam.
Used with the author's permission.