The complete weird guide to bird watching


There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or to attract a bird.

Does your life seem stale? Do you have a standing order with every barista in downtown Billings? Are you tired of following the scat trails of grizzlies and bobcats? Does the “New World’s Most Interesting Man” not seem so interesting these days?

Would you rather stay home and empty the mold-ridden water from the refrigerator drain pan than venture into the great outdoors with friends? If so, then we, here at this finely composed and wonderfully edited online news site, offer these unique bird-watching experiences to you in the hope that they will enliven your life.


Geek Birding

This is a fun way to spend the afternoon and is an activity appreciated by young and old. Some specialized equipment not normally associated with bird watching will be required, so first, go to eBay and hunt up a collectible Deep Space Nine pocket protector and fill it with a few feathers from your favorite birds, a magnifying glass, one broken pencil, a bird measuring thingy and, of course, an antique Blackberry Z-10.

Multi-colored, or at minimum, tri-colored, below-the-knee board shorts are de rigueur. Top this off with black socks, thick-soled Google sandals, a “tasteful” Hawaiian shirt, and a pith helmet with one of those neat solar operated fans to blow air on your face. In addition, take white adhesive tape and wrap it around the center stem of your binoculars. When using the binoculars, be sure to look through the wrong end, all the while commenting, “Woot, woot, everything looks so small. Woot, woot.”

Now run noisily from tree to tree while pointing vigorously into the air. A real laugh getter is to run directly into a tree and shout “Bazinga!” Also, be sure that you are using a Florida field guide instead of one for Montana birds. If anyone points this out to you exclaim, “Dangit Jim, I’m a birder, not a climate scientist!”

Warning: Excessive use of this method can be habit forming, and you may experience a drop in the number of family members and/or friends willing to admit knowing you.

Macho Birding

This is the easiest to learn of all the birding practices. First, grow a great big, thick moustache, put on a western shirt and lots of leather and practice your funky walk. Now, use that funky walk to search out the practitioners of the above-mentioned Geek Birding.

Upon finding them, shove them face down into the nearest accumulation of pond scum you can find, take their list, and claim it as your own. After many weeks of enduring these experiences, the Geeks will react to your presence by running off screaming. By then, we hope, your life list will be complete, and you can retire.

Zen Birding

Begun in Missoula (like that’s a big surprise, right?) by the Sixth Street Shaman, Shayit Ainso, Zen Birding is based on the conundrum that to look at the bird is to not see the bird, so to see the bird, we must not look at the bird. Therefore, when one is not looking at the bird, the bird will be seen, but contrarily, once the bird is seen, we are looking at it and since to see is to not see, the bird disappears.

For this reason, Zen Birders do not have long life lists. But, by compiling a list of the birds they have not seen, they in actuality have created a list of birds that have been seen by not being seen. Thus, the transcendence that is “bird” and lies beyond the normal time/space continuum and is expressed in this realm as the physical manifestation of life/force/energy, is only known to us as “bird” because we do not know its name. If bird is not its name, then what we see when we do not see bird might not be bird. For after all, what is the sound of one wing flapping?

Zen birders are easy to spot as they are the ones milling around not looking through their binoculars while chanting the names or not the names of birds they have seen by not seeing. See?

Couch Potato Birding

Now, even those who do not have the get up and go to get up and go outside, or lack the funds to have their stomachs stapled, can also join the birders’ fraternity. You can fill out your list while you fill out your figure with deep-fat-fried by-products, snackable consumables and fizzy beverages loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. Your list builds up while you chow down.

How, you might ask? Simple! Just plop down in front of that 80-inch super-smart, curved, ATM series, 4K Ultra HD TV with Organic Light Emitting Diodes you bought “just for the kids” and watch hour after hour of “Animal Planet,” “NOVA” and the never-ending repeats of “Duck Dynasty.” Wildlife specials are on at least 200 times a week and you’ll see more birds in 10 minutes than the most dedicated outdoor searchers will see in a week.

No longer will you have to endure the extreme discomfort and cost of a trip to the Antarctic to see penguins. Check your channel guide to see when “Hi, I’m Sir Jeff Ewelt-Attenborough for Nature” will be repeated and you’ll get to see those little tuxedoed sons-of-guns traipsing all around your living room. And knowing him, I’d bet he’ll even throw in a few other species as well.

From the Absarokas to Bloody Dick Peak in the Beaverhead, let your flat screen do the walking. Save those fingers for popping the tops off your favorite carbohydrate-loaded beverages. And, when you get really good at this type of birding, it’s time to kick it up another notch.

The ultimate test—movie birding. Slap that Blu-ray into the player and scan the backgrounds for unauthorized birds. How many of you saw the cedar waxwings sucking up serviceberries in “A River Runs Through It, Over It and Under It and Just About Anywhere it Darn Well Pleases”?

Perhaps after watching “Blade Runner” for the umpteenth time you’ll be the one to finally spot the nuthatch creeping out from underneath the spinner car (spoiler alert—it’s in the middle section of the fifth scene before the credits). Even the lowest form of television entertainment devised, the World Cup of soccer, has at least its own contingent of pigeons and sparrows.

So climb into that recliner and get to work. The soaps, the news, the series—all are fertile hunting grounds for the couch potato birder. Remember, as you grow, so does your list.

Now you can scroll back to that article you really wanted to read: “How to extract human growth hormone from a carefully concocted blend of Brews Losis, Gluten Free Paleo Malt Beverage, Grass Fed Tuna and Vegan Buffalo Chips.”

Michael Mason

Michael Mason

Growing up on a steady diet of “Howdy Doody,” “The Three Stooges,” Mad Magazine and rock and roll left Michael Mason completely unprepared for normal society. He and his wife, Karen, live outside Joliet, where he serves as personal retainer to a formerly feral feline named I. Moulton Gateaux. This just may be the only job Michael’s misspent youth enabled him to handle.

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