Mudman is an occasional birding companion who does not like to talk with other people when he is birding, especially other birders. He’d rather find birds himself, and he distrusts the attitude of other birders. With some good reason.
“There’s a flock of Black Skimmers out by the sand-bar,” I replied. Mudman and I were both accustomed to seeing only one or two of these unusual birds on the northern New England coast, so we were excited about seeing over thirty at one time.
“All the herons except that one,” I responded.
He turned to his companions. “Listen. Let’s not waste our time here. Let’s go someplace good.” They piled back in their car and sped off.
I won’t repeat what we muttered to one another, but you can imagine. I can tell you that we were both deliciously satisfied when, within five minutes of their departure, we saw their desired Tricolored Heron.
There’s the dilemma in that question: “Seen anything good?” How do I know what is “good” to another person. Five species of warbler in one bush is “good” to me, even if I have already seen all five individually on that same day. But often the questioner really means (without saying it): “Have you seen a bird that hasn’t been seen around here ever?” And on the off chance that you have, he won’t believe you. The question is a Catch-22. However you answer, you lose.
When asked the question, “Seen anything good?” - I usually respond, “If I’ve got a bird in my binoculars, it’s good.” And then in as friendly a manner as possible, I ask the question which I think should have been asked, “What have you seen?” Sometimes I will risk posing the question as: “Have you seen anything unusual?” - hoping that the person I am asking will tell me about rare sightings.
Most birders I know are journeyman birders like me, and we don’t need to be subjected to the arrogance of those hot-shots who think they know everything. But we do need to receive information, and in turn share it. We simply enjoy the birding experience.
By stopping to talk with that group of women in the cow meadows at Cape May, I made it possible for Mudman to see an elusive bird for the first time in his long birding career. His high from that experience floated him over the marshes for the next hour. That was good!