Identifying 285 different species of birds, in Maryland, by December 31, 2018, was no easy feat. There were plenty of long grueling days in the elements, days when I spent more time driving than birding, and several times when I didn’t get my target species.
Missing Your Target Bird is Frustrating!
When you don’t find your target bird, it’s hard not to feel frustrated. A birding friend once told me, and I’m paraphrasing, “Birding is a game, a game you play against yourself, and it should be fun.” He is right, but agreeing with him at the time was tough. There were several times when my birding sessions were filled with more anxiety and frustration than fun, not because I was trying to hit a specific number, but because I was ill, fatigued, and trying to keep my family thriving. After managing all of that and still walking (or in my case hobbling) away without the bird, it’s impossible not to be bummed out.
Chasing on a Schedule
When a Roseate Spoonbill made a visit to Maryland, in June, I had to plan the chase carefully. Thankfully, my daughter was enrolled in summer camp, therefore, I had between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to go see the bird. The spoonbill was almost two hours away. After dropping my kid off at camp, I burned rubber. I was there just around 11:30 a.m. My feet were on the ground for no more than 10 minutes. It was enough time to see the bird (it was asleep which means I didn’t see the bill), do a happy dance (because it was my 250th bird), and then hop back in my car to make it back in time for carpool. You might be saying to yourself, that leaves and extra hour, well, when you live in the D.C. metropolitan area and you need to get to your kid at a certain time, you give yourself an extra hour. Meeting your child isn’t something you can be late to.
I Chose to Miss My Target
The Varied Thrush showed up on Saturday, December 22, in a county over two hours away, I knew that my best shot, scheduling wise, would be on Christmas Eve day. My daughter was already on winter vacation, but my husband still had to work on Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t secure childcare for more than a couple of hours.
Why didn’t I drag my daughter out on a five hour, round trip, car ride? Because I want her to like birding when she is older! Also, she’s person and gets a say in what we do together. Don’t get me wrong, I asked her about 100 times if she wanted to go, and then another 100 times if she was sure that she didn’t want to go — she definitely didn’t want to come and I tried every bribe in my Mom Playbook.
…the birds wait for no one, and neither does Santa.
My husband made arrangements to be home by noon, but there was no way, even if I hustled, to make it to this bird. No way, that is, to see the thrush and be home in time to make cookies for Santa. It’s true, the birds wait for no one, and neither does Santa.
In the end, the cookies were made, and eaten (yum), and we had a relaxing Christmas Eve. I went to look for the thrush twice that week, but I wasn’t able to find it. I had missed my chance. I was frustrated, very frustrated, because I felt that I should have tried harder to go the day after it was found — before Christmas Eve. Maybe I should have dragged my daughter along for the ride? Just kidding. I am glad that I didn’t do that. I am also glad that I didn’t risk going later on Christmas Eve (you can never predict the traffic situation in the D.C. area around the holidays). Would the thrush have been worth ruining Christmas Eve by being late and putting our traditions on hold, being stressed, or making my family feel like they were second on my mind? No way.
I chose Santa over a Varied Thrush and despite my frustration over missing that bird, I don’t regret it.