In the new book Good Birders Don't Wear White, Robert Braunfield has a lovely chapter about enjoying all of the cool things that come with watching birds. Called Don't Forget the Peripherals, he expounds upon the delights of local diners where waitresses call you "hon", picnics replete with engine manifold-heated pastrami sandwiches, beer from a Thermos paired with olives from a jar, and pointing out awkwardly-named birds to non-birders. Good advice indeed- in the heat of a major twitch or under the stress of conducting a field trip it is easy to forget the good stuff that comes along with birding.
So last night I was wasting time a little before tucking in, checking out some offerings on YouTube. Imagine my surprise when I found this video by a feller who plays songs by squeezing air between his hands (manualism for you linguists out there.) I could expound, but a picture (or in this case, a moving picture) is worth at least 1000 words...
If you've stayed with me so far you are probably wondering what a guy hand-farting the song Bohemian Rhapsody has to do with enjoying the peripherals of birding. Well, let me tell you...
A bit over a year ago, I had the privilege of participating in the legendary World Series of Birding along with Jeff Bouton and David La Puma. As Team Double XXposure, sponsored by Leica (gracias!) we competed in the digiscoping category and compiled a CD documenting our 102 species by the 10pm deadline, all photographed through Leica scopes in the rush of the big day. I'd have to rank that as one of best birding trips that I've done, not just because of the non-stop world-class birding on our scouting days and on the big day itself, but because of all of the crazy fun we had in our red-lined effort to break the century mark for birds digiscoped in a day. (Click on over here to see a more detailed account and our submission pics from the day...) Sometime in the afternoon, after a successful stop at Reed's Beach (where we snapped things like Spotted Sandpiper, Glossy Ibis, and Boat-tailed Grackle) we were driving back out when I dialed up the Flaming Lips' version of Queen's epic on my iPod and piped it through our rental van's speakers. Now if you don't know Jeff Bouton, you may not know that he is legendary for his karaoke skills- that guy has strong pipes! And La Puma is no slouch either, and I will always chime in, too. So here we were bailing out to get to our next stop, windows down, singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs, putting Wayne's World (remember that scene?) to shame. I'm grinning now remembering it, and whenever I hear the song, even by a guy who plays it on his hands, I can't help but remember that day.
I think that music is one of the peripherals that a lot of birders really enjoy. Bouton isn't alone in his fondness for belting out songs into a communal mike- Amy Hooper, Jeff Gordon, and Sharon Stiteler all espouse the virtues of a good karaoke bar within striking distance of a birding festival. Gavin Bieber even ran his own karaoke business with his wife, carting the rig from bar to bar for karaoke nights (& maybe still does- I'll have to ask him the next time we cross paths.) Ted Floyd has a piano in his living room and rumor has it that he can tickle the ivories. Bill Thompson III often posts song lyrics on his blog and reports on gigs where he and his wife Julie Zickefoose play, (yeah, they're in a band for goodness sake.) And a road trip with Tony Leukering just wouldn't be the same without his steering-wheel drumming to classic rock tunes. But some of my favorite music/birding mash-ups come from Tom McKinney, who works in music themes throughout his birding diary. He dutifully counted down to Iron Maiden's UK visit last year, and comes up with some crazy music videos (find his May 20 post, for example.) So in that vein I'll post the classic that started it all, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Sing along, won't you?
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