Bird Watcher


Deirdre is also a birdwatcher, and she is better at it than me!

The most recent incident, in a long string of them, was tonight. She was sitting on my lap, and suddenly started saying “Whit-whew, whit-whew, whit-whew!” and pointing over my shoulder. Following the direction of her finger, I noticed our CD entitled North American Birds, which had a big full color drawing of a Cardinal on it. Knowing that she often says “Who-whoo” whenever she sees an owl, I guessed. “Is that a Cardinal?”

“Carnel!” She agreed, most satisfied.

“Hey Cadie!”

“What?”

“What noise does a Cardinal make?” To which Cadie rattled off a bunch of un-typable sounds that certainly sounded like a bird, and several of which sounded a good deal like “Whit-whew!” Goodness gracious.

Earlier today, I was wearing a sweater with a picture of a chick-a-dee embroidered on it. I pointed it out to her as a birdy. Cadie clarified over my shoulder that it was a chickadee (and that chickadee is spelled chickadee not chick-a-dee). Immediately, Deirdre started blowing. I was befuddled. Since when do chickadees blow? But Cadie started laughing.

“Oh, she’s trying to whistle! I always whistle the noises of chickadees!”

I could go on and on. Nowadays, when she reads the birdy book (our bird field guide) she seems to know more than I do. The other day she was pointing out to me oiyuls (orioles), kwo (crow), duck, ow hoo hoo (owl, who, who). Also reported being known by her are awk (hawk), ‘ornin (mourning dove), wallow (swallow, but mostly the birdy sound effects), pit (pidgeon), ull (gull), parrow (sparrow), wen (wren), wan (swan), and lots and lots more. I’ve been telling her pelican lately, just ’cause the longer the word and the smaller the kid, the more fun you have. (Other long words we always have to teach little kids are ridiculous, preposterous, impossible, and, in Deirdre’s case, pistachio brain, which is a bit more of a detailed description of a nutcase, of which Deirdre is a genuine specimen.)

At any rate, if anyone would like to take up birding, don’t bother wasting your time on all those silly “Birding for Beginners” books–just come down here and Deirdre will give you a complete tutorial. She’ll sit you down on the couch and pull out her trusty field guide, and begin at the very beginning. She’ll point out all the details: Wah-ee (water around the ducks), I-I-I-I-I-I-I (eye, of course, birds have these things; you should keep your eye out for them) bayyyyyyy-be (birds have babies, too). If she could turn the pages one by one, she would probably tell you what bird it was on every page, and give the appropriate sound effects. As it is, she randomly flips the book, and when she sees a new page she smacks her finger down right in the middle of the picture and pronounces the name, and usually the appropriate noise. Then, fli-i-i-ip, smack “eese! (geese!) ahnk! ahnk!” Fli-i-i-i-p, smack “Ow! Hoo, hoo! Bayyyyyyyyybies.” After this there is a short period of contemplation, taking in the fact that some of these owls have babies, and some don’t, I suppose. Fli-i-i-p, smack! “Moring! hoo, woo!” Then, when she has decided she’s shown you all the important things, she smack the book shut. “Eeeeeeeeeeeeee end!” There. Now you know all about birds. Come again tomorrow for your second class.