Friday, March 8, 2013

My Top Ten Birding Wishes

Friday, March 8, 2013
For years I've written a top-ten-themed column for various channels of the burgeoning Bird Watcher's Digest media empire. Many of them were straight-ahead lists of things to do to enhance your backyard bird watching or tips for better birding. But this one is pure fantasy.
Where would we be without wishful thinking?

My Top Ten Birding Wishes
If I found a mysterious lantern while trudging along the muddy banks of the Ohio River, rubbed the dirt from it, freeing a long-trapped genie who promised to grant me some birding wishes, these are the things I'd wish for. [Never forgetting that one should never end a sentence with a preposition.]
Everyone wishes for a genie lamp.

10. ID Wizard
You could say it takes the fun out of birding, but I wish I had a magic gizmo (or an app for my iPhone) that would help me ID the birds I see and hear that I can't easily ID myself. I've preached about being zenlike when that unidentified (possible life) bird disappears over the next ridge, never to be seen again. Well, that's horsehockey. It drives me NUTS! Give me wizard or give me birding death! Certainly there are enough genius engineers SOMEwhere in the world to come up with a sound- or sight-based device to help us identify poorly seen, unfamiliar, uncooperative birds. Aim. Capture. Answer. I'm sure I'd only use it when I was really stumped, because figuring things out yourself is a big part the enjoyment of birding.

9. Hotter/Colder Bird-finding App
Let's face it. The bird-finding apps that are available currently are only as good as the data that they are built upon. It does me (or you or anyone) no good to know that there's a resplendent quetzal near College Corner, Indiana if we can't get directions or access to the birds because it's a private sighting or on private property. Better: A bird-finding app that lets you know there is a rare bird near you, then takes you on a game of "hotter/colder" to find it. As you moved in one direction, the app would say to you (hopefully in a voice less annoying than Siri): "you are getting colder....." You'd change directions and, as you got closer to the correct direction, the app would say "warmer...WARMER...GETTING HOT NOW!" Hey look! There's the bird!

8. iPhoneBins
Since this blog post is all about me, I want a camera/binocular device that has both WiFi and cellular service so I can immediately share my sightings in real time with my friends and family and fellow birders. Turn the focus wheel, frame your shot, and press the record/capture button. Then hit send. Think how cool this would be! Rare birds records committees would immediately order shots of both Jack Daniels and hemlock. Meanwhile, a birder could order a pizza using the iPhoneBins while scanning a flock of shorebirds.

7. Hologram Replay
As an added feature of the iPhoneBins I'd like hologram replay. Stick with me here: the concept is simple. The camera in the bins would record still images and video constantly and store them on either an internal hard drive or via the cloud. If you wanted to share a sighting with your fellow bird watchers in the field, or afterwards, back at home, simply push the hologram replay button and a lens cover rolls back, exposing a projection lens which would show your sightings in a holographic beam of light, in 3D, so everyone could enjoy them. Finer ID points could be discussed. Rare sightings could be shared with others at the press of a button.

6.5 BONUS SELECTION! Google Birding Glasses. Incorporating numbers 10 through 7 above, but wearable all the time. Also available in seamless transition bifocal format.
How long will it be until we're all wearing something like this?

6. Starbucks Birding Concierge
Have you ever been out in the field, feeling a bit sluggish and cold—finding yourself wishing for a hot cup of coffee or tea? I know I have. Because there seems now to be a Starbucks cafe/bistro/whatever it is on every street corner in every town it would seem only logical that they would begin delivering their hot expensive beverages to us wherever we are. Nothing quite says birding like a grande sugar-free non-fat vanilla latte with whipped cream.

5. Birdingmobile Hybrid Convertible with 360˚ Glass
Now we're talking! This incredible birding vehicle would run on old french fry oil and be as rugged as a jeep with four-wheel drive. The seamless glass surrounding the car offers a clear, unobstructed, non-wavy view of the outside. It would have four rotating captain's chairs with built-in scope mounts. An external mic pipes in bird sounds while filtering out extraneous noise from wind, traffic, jackhammers, Garrison Keillor broadcasts, and so on. On board WiFi and digital interface lets passengers stay connected with the birding world. While we're dreaming I guess I'll put in a request for an on-board kitchenette, bathroom, and beer cooler.

4. Sunproof Birding Skin
Like many of my outdoorsy friends, I've already incurred the wrath of my dermatologist for not protecting myself well enough from the harmful effects of the sun. I try my best to remember to smear a thick layer of 50 SPF sunscreen onto my epidermis prior to going out birding. I also begrudgingly wear the dorky sun hat. A better solution would be some sort of genetic tweak or synthetic implant or holographic shield that would offer sun protection with out all that fuss, muss, and fashion faux pas. We can breed corn that never needs water and laughs at insect pests. We can create dog breeds that look like they were put together out of Mr. Potato Head kits. I'm certain that we can come up with a sunproof birding skin. When we do, I'm an XL long.
Not what I had in mind, but probably sun-proof.

3. Time-Space Migration Transportation
I would like to go birding with John James Audubon. I would like to be the birding guide for Lewis and Clark (heck I'll even bring along extra bins for Meriwether, Bill, and Sacagawea.) I want to see passenger pigeons darken the sky. I want to hear a Bachman's warbler sing in a canebrake. I want to sneak up on a heath hen lek. Pterodactyl fly by? Yes please. Give me the power to go back in time and I promise you I will do my best to stop some of the truly stupid and tragic bird extinctions. I just want to see one alive Eskimo curlew. Just one. Of all the dreamsicle wishes on this list, this is the one I hold most dear.
Eskimo curlew.

2. Everfill Feeder
It may seem like a frivolous thing, but you haven't filled our 17 bird feeders. It takes 45 minutes if you do it right. Please give me a feeder that magically stays filled with the proper seed. And it automagically stays hygienically clean, too.

1.  Birding Dream Team
Along the lines of going back in time, I want to put together a no-longer-alive dream team of birders. Baseball (my other love besides birds) used to put together all-star teams from the major leagues that would then travel the country playing exhibition games in towns big and small along the way to drum up interest in the national pastime. They called it barnstorming. Well I'd like to put together a team of famed bird people from history and go on a birding barnstorming trip around North America just to see what we could see together.
Of course RTP is on my team. Heck he'd be the captain.

On my roster would be John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, and William Bartram—though they'd have to leave their guns behind. Lewis and Clark would come along, too, and we'd go looking for their namesake birds. I'd pick Teddy Roosevelt for a trip out west. Roger Tory Peterson and his mentor Ludlow Griscom for some New England outings. Frank Chapman would be our DO (designated ornithologist). Margaret Morse Nice and Florence Merriam Bailey would add their immense bird knowledge to the adventure. When we headed out on a pelagic trip, Charles Darwin and Robert Cushman Murphy would be our leaders. If you do not know these names, please do yourself a favor and use The Google.

Does this adventure sound like fun? You're welcome to join us...We're leaving as soon as the Birdingmobile and the iPhoneBins arrive. I ordered them yesterday and asked for expedited shipping.


On March 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM Tara K said...

I'm there with you on all of these wishes .. but mostly the glasses with ID and share and all that built in .. :)

On March 8, 2013 at 1:17 PM Sue Evanoff said...

I'm in!!! Love the 360 convertible glass - too cool. But most of all the bird time machine!!!

On March 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM Birder Katie said...

Ha ha, love it! I would like to substitute some bird-friendly coffee for the Starbucks. Also, I want portals/transporters so when I cool bird shows up halfway across the country, I can be there in 5 minutes.

On March 8, 2013 at 3:12 PM KathyW said...

Most excellent list. Mine would include a safe way to see every living species in its own habitat, BTW, you and Julie would be on my birding dream team!

On March 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM cyberthrush said...

You're nuts Bill, absolutely nuts... and I like that in a person!!
(ohh, but you need to add Arthur Allen or Jim Tanner to your birding dream team, ya know, for them southern swamps ;-).

On March 8, 2013 at 7:02 PM Desertdarlene said...

I'm hurting to see an Eskimo curlew, too. I know they're working on resurrecting passenger pigeons, but I doubt they will ever darken the sky ever again even if they brought them back to life.

On March 8, 2013 at 9:44 PM rmharvey said...

I want to be able to push a button on my binoculars telling all the other binoculars around me know where I'm looking so they can direct their users to that spot.

On March 9, 2013 at 10:26 PM Anonymous said...

What about James Bond, he was a pretty good birder.

On March 10, 2013 at 4:45 PM The Examiner said...

I read your wish about an 'ever fill feeder' and it made me think of a wish that I would put on there.
I would wish for a way to keep the squirrels away from both feeders and flowers.

On March 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM Rondeau Ric said...

The Examiner. A squirrel proof feeder, now that is fantasy.
Number 5 sounds like a modified RV, toilets included.
Anne is holding out for bins that ID the bird.

On March 13, 2013 at 5:12 PM Unknown said...

Great ideas Bill! Wouldn't it be great that with one click on your super binoculars you could share your sightings on all the social platforms at once?!

On March 14, 2013 at 11:24 PM Anonymous said...

Fun ideas. One of my wishes would be for migrating birds to leave laser light contrails in the sky. Each bird species would have it's own color and/ or pattern. I'd hang a hammock out on Kelly's Island and stay up all night and watch the show. When dawn arrives, the contrails would slowly fade away. Diana

On March 22, 2013 at 11:39 PM Jackie said...

Bill, this may be one of my all-time fav posts!! You're not asking too much!! I've got my checkbook ready for all of the above!!! (And I thought my Swarovski bins were awesome!) Yes, I want the iPhone bins and the car!! Please send this on to MIT, Apple, or somethin' cuz I gotta have 'em all!! Thanks for posting!

On March 22, 2013 at 11:40 PM Jackie said...

Bill, this may be one of my all-time fav posts!! You're not asking too much!! I've got my checkbook ready for all of the above!!! (And I thought my Swarovski bins were awesome!) Yes, I want the iPhone bins and the car!! Please send this on to MIT, Apple, or somethin' cuz I gotta have 'em all!! Thanks for posting!

On March 25, 2013 at 6:42 PM Elaine said...

This is my all time favorite "Bill of the Birds" ever!

On March 25, 2013 at 10:10 PM Anonymous said...

what a freaky blog- but I wouldn't expect anything less from 'Bill of the Birds' . Freakshow!

On April 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM Jeff Maass said...

Reference the '10. ID Wizard', it's long been my contention that all birds should be emblazoned with bar codes that could be scanned at a distance to provide ID.

On March 5, 2017 at 8:11 PM The Bird said...

By far the best wish list I have ever read. Well done. Steady Bins


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