Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Egrets, I saw a few.

I'm not even sure she's looking through the right end.

Sana is at the age where she’s asking questions about the world around her. Some of them are even driven by genuine curiosity, as opposed to fuelling her apparently incessant need to Talk All Of The Time.

In an effort to help her understand the world, I am trying to break things down into categories for her: that thing flitting across the sidewalk was not a “birdy” but a specific kind of birdy – a robin maybe, or a pigeon.

The problem is that, once she realized that different looking birds have different names, she wanted to know what they all were. Which would be great, except that I only know maybe half a dozen kinds of birds. One of those is an ostrich, and I have dearly held hopes that I will someday be able to bust out that knowledge on the streets of Chicago.

In any case, Sana's curiosity almost immediately exceeded my extremely limited store of ornithological knowledge. So, I dutifully dug out my binoculars, downloaded the Audubon society’s app onto my phone, and drove the family out to the Moraine Hills State Park, about an hour’s drive out of town.

The park was entirely misnamed, as Moraine Hills is probably ninety percent moraine marsh and swamp. Which was fine – the girls were happy to tromp through the woods either way, and I did my best to point out the local bird-life to Sana while desperately trying to figure out which of the thousands of possibilities provided by my phone that it could be.

As it was, I recognized some ducks and a robin on my own. The black bird with the red patches on its wings turned out to be, unsurprisingly, a Red-Winged Blackbird. There were some cranes, an egret, a cardinal and a few goldfinches. There was also an undistinguished brown thing with wings that I cannot identify and thus must conclude was a space alien.

Sana, of course, lost interest after failing to figure out how the binoculars were supposed to work (her method: hold binoculars to her eyes, point them to the ground, complain loudly that she could see no birdies).

After walking two slow miles in the woods, the girls were tuckered out, so I pressed on the remaining two miles to retrieve the car. When I came back, Amynah, Sana, and Inara were clustered around a fisherman, who was holding a live catfish that he’d just caught. Inara was particularly entranced, touching it, patting it, and looking in wonder at its brother - bloody and gutted - in the man’s cooler. She seemed delighted to learn that both were destined to be the man’s dinner that night. (“Yeah! EAT THEM!”)

So, even if Sana seemed more interested in adding to her stick collection, and Inara in fish viscera, the trip wasn’t a total loss: I think I might like birdwatching. I’m so glad I have my kids around to inspire new interests.

"Muddy-winged brown thingy"

1 comment:

David Beeson said...

Glad to discover, in Sana and Inara, two twin spirits of mine in attitude towards birdwatching: plenty of enthusiasm, unhampered by knowledge, understanding or excessive application.