Add this bird to your life list

Shea and I share many interests, which we call The Six Bs*: baseball, blogging, buffets, baseball, being married to people way out of our respective leagues, and baseball. One interest that we do not share, but which also begins with a B, is birding.

When we’re at NAI National Workshops every November, Shea usually says to me something like, “A couple of us are going to get up at 4:00 in the morning and go sit in a freezing-cold puddle in the middle of a big field for a few hours. Wanna come?” For a long time, I thought this was Shea’s way of telling me he didn’t want to hang out, but I learned recently that this group of people was actually doing the thing he said. They take binoculars and birding books and sit in freezing-cold puddles. Then they look for birds and check “lifers” off their lists.

I have a healthy respect for life lists and collections in general. I keep a running list of Major League Baseball stadiums I have visited (19, including seven that are no longer in use) and I am dangerously close to becoming obsessed with my ice cream sundae mini-helmet collection. However, the extent of my interest in birds boils down to a three-tiered classification system that I learned from an NAI friend: Big, Pretty, Other. (It used to be a four-tiered system, until Shea told me that I cannot count “Buffalo Chicken” on my life list.)

I don’t actually object to birds (though there have been a few incidents when it seemed birds thought I had a target on my head). In fact, when I’m in a place where there are interesting birds (in the “Big” or “Pretty” categories) or birds that I used to sing about as a child, I have been known to actually take photos of them, as with this actual kookaburra sitting on an actual old gum tree that I saw in southern Australia in 2010. (Note that this photo was taken from the deck of a house while I was drinking coffee in the late morning, rather than from a frozen puddle while it was still dark.)

Given my interest in branding and identity, especially where they cross over into sports, and my relative lack of interest in birds, I was intrigued to learn the back story of the Phillie Phanatic, the mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies and the best mascot in all of sports, objectively speaking. The Phanatic was introduced in 1978 as the last survivor of a flightless bird species from the Galapagos islands.

Just recently, the Phanatic returned to his native land on a tour offered by Lindblad Expeditions—the same Lindblad Expeditions that interpretation superstar Sam Ham has collaborated with since 1988 to promote conservation of the Galapagos. Worlds are colliding! There’s an article about that collaboration in the September/October 2008 issue of Legacy magazine. (You can see a photo album of the Phanatic’s visit, including the above photo by Celso Montalvo, on the Phillies website.)

I, for one, am glad to see the Phanatic involved with Lindblad. In the 2008 Legacy article, titled “Using Interpretation to Promote Conservation in the Galapagos,” Sam Ham says, “The conservation community is watching the Galapagos example…. If conservation can’t work there, where can it work?” To date, according to the Lindblad website, interpretive techniques—making people care about the place—have helped them raise $4.5 million, “more than any other organization in Galapagos.”

And while all of this has piqued my interest in birds, it’s funny that Sam didn’t mention the Phanatic once in that article. Probably because he’s a Mariners fan.

All of that said, I still don’t see myself getting up at 4:00 in the morning to go look for birds at next November’s NAI Workshop in Virginia. I prefer my favorite birds to show up at coordinated holiday events in downtown Ocean City, New Jersey, and be willing to pose for pictures.

*Not really.

5 thoughts on “Add this bird to your life list

  1. OK, first, you were in Ocean City AGAIN and didn’t so much as call? Pauly, baby, we could’ve had you as a sub for the playoffs in Ocean City’s dodgeball league! (I was on the DL with a pulled hammy and a stress fracture in my foot. My team lost in the semis.)

    Second, your three tier system is slightly off. I was always taught that there are only three kinds of birds in the entire world: hawks & owls, ducks, and LBJs (little brown jobbies). It’s a system that’s served me well for the past two decades.

  2. Actually, Phil, that photo’s a couple years old. I’ll be in OC in a few weeks. Not sure if there’s a Phanatic spotting scheduled.

  3. The Wetlands Institute’s Scute the Terrapin is fully prepared to kick the Phanatic’s ass… assuming the Phanatic has an ass. It’s kinda hard to tell.

  4. “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree-
    Merry, merry king of the bush is he….”

    That song is going to be in my head all afternoon! Great picture though. I was not aware of Phillie Phanatic’s connection to the Galapagos, now I am- that should come in handy some day. 😉

  5. I surly thought Paul’s Six Bs would be: baseball, brews, burgers, bratwursts, bacon, and baseball. I was close, but do like his choice of buffets. How could he leave bacon off that list?

    When I was fortunate enough to attend the NAI International in Panama this last May, I met some of the most knowledgeable birders from around the world. I had no idea that Panama was considered such a great birding location. I have never been a birder, but IBD co-author, Shea Lewis, did give me my first bird guidebook a couple years back. I have actually used it a few times. In Panama, some of the most experienced birders tried to teach me about birding. They came close to Paul’s classification system. I was told there were Big, Pretty, and LBJs (little brown jobs.)

    I agree with Paul, the thought of getting up at 4AM to go look for birds has never appealed to me. One of my favorite birds I saw in Panama was the toucan at the Gamboa Resort where we were staying. The toucan was smart enough to not have me get up at 4AM, but rather at 4PM when it was cold beer time out on the terrace.

Comments are closed.