Monday, May 22, 2006

Kingbirds and Highways

Monday, May 22, 2006
One of the eastern kingbirds that have been hanging around in the fields surrounding our farm. A few will stay to nest here.

I love eastern kingbirds. They appear each May, zapping their "fork in an electric socket" calls and fluttering from treetop to wire and back again. This week we've had a half-dozen or so hanging around the neighbors' hayfields. And I finally had the time and cooperative sunlight to digiscope a few of them.

Recently I was given the honor of introducing Kenn Kaufman as the keynote speaker at the Ohio Ornithological Society's annual conference. Those of you who know me realize that I relished this opportunity as a chance to swerve from the middle of the road. Sure I could've done the boring emcee thing and cited Kenn's long list of accomplishments, his many published works, his years of leading bird tours, but no.

I decided to write a song for the occasion.
Kenn Kaufman, author, bird ID maven, lover of kingbirds. Photo by Julie Zickefoose.

And that song, copped from Hank Williams, Sr's "Lost Highway" morped into a song bearing the same title as Kenn's book "Kingbird Highway." If you have read the book, these lyrics might resonate with you. If you have not read the book, well, I am sorry amigo, but you have not led a full life. Get it. Read it. Come back here for the lyrics.

Kingbird Highway (with apologies to Hank Williams, Sr.)

I’m a rollin’ stone all alone and lost
For a life of birds I have paid the cost
When I pass by all the people say
There’s that weird dude who wrote Kingbird Highway

With binoculars and an old field guide
Eating canned cat food and trying to hitch a ride
To add one more bird to my big year LIST
If I miss that bird, well I’ll sure be…..MAD

I was just a lad, nearly 17
When I left my home to chase those things with wings
Then I lost my scope, it got washed away
Lord I paid the cost, on the Kingbird Highway

Now if you’re out just a chasin’ birds
At the sewage plant, where there’s lots of …..YELLOWLEGS
Just keep your cool, don’t get carried away
As you travel down that Kingbird Highway

Kenn dug it. Hope you do, too.
Meanwhile, spend some time appreciating what a great bird the eastern (or western) kingbird is.
BT3, your singing emcee introducing K2 to the OOS faithful.


On May 22, 2006 at 10:55 PM Dawn said...

love it Bill! now record it for us so we can here you sing! Oh and Kingbird Highway is a great book.

On May 23, 2006 at 8:28 AM Anonymous said...

Was appreciating kingbirds, both eastern and western, as we drove from east border to west border of South Dakota on Sunday. Picking up new schnauzer friend on the way. Hopefully he'll be as characterful as Chet Baker. Daughter has tagged him Capt. Jack Sparrow, he started life on the prairie of SD listening to meadowlarks by the dozens.
Kingbird Highway is one of my "car" books, for waiting for kids at school.
Caroline Stafford

On May 23, 2006 at 9:00 AM Rondeau Ric said...

I agree with dawn, record it for us.

On May 23, 2006 at 12:00 PM Anonymous said...

For anyone who missed Bill's intro of Kenn, and his Kingbird Highway performance, I can only say you missed one of the funniest and most entertaining moments in birding event history. Wish it had been videotaped.