Bye Bye Birdie
I’m back from the deep South and I cannot tell a lie. While I missed my hometown terribly, I did not miss the snow you guys suffered in my absence. Since the weather icon on my smartphone always shows Rehoboth first, I got my daily Delaware news and it wasn’t pretty. We’ll, actually, some days the pictures were pretty, but the words coming out of my friends’ mouths were not.
Numerous people sneeringly spat, ”You picked the right winter to become snowbirds.”
Yes, we did.
And speaking of snowbirds, during this winter respite I admit to having enjoyed some new-to-me outdoor activities, like birding.
My prior birding experience was limited to Tippi Hedren being dive-bombed in The Birds, or an occasional run-in with a flock of filthy pigeons on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Oh, and those thieving seagulls in front of Thrashers on the boardwalk.
But I accepted an invitation to go birding at a Florida sanctuary. Decked out with binoculars, a camera, water, and snacks, we set out along the two and a half mile boardwalk.
Even I didn’t expect to need a snack for just 2.5 miles. Little did I know that birders can spy a creature, stare at it for a long time with the naked eye, then look at it through binocs interminably. I mean a really long time. At this rate it would take hours to reach the mile marker and rather than a small snack I’d need a whole pizza.
As we watch birds, all conversation is whispered, all walking is softly, with a big stick. Practically tip-toeing along, we saw Buntings—and not like Reho’s human kind. These were rare and colorful winged creatures. Then we came across a huge owl, about two feet to my right off the boardwalk, just staring at us. For the record, he did not turn his head all the way around like something from The Exorcist. I was disappointed. He didn’t even say WHOO. But if he did, it would have been “Whoo are these old people behind you wearing khaki, covered in badges, with cameras like AK47s?” They were Audubon hikers looking like Scout Troop AARP.
Just then a flock of large birds flew in formation overhead and everybody stared up at them, gape-jawed at their mighty numbers. Was I the only one worried about staring up open mouthed under the flock?
Heading into mile two we saw a Pileated Woodpecker banging away on a huge tree, making me wonder why they don’t get migraines. My attention drifted even further, with me questioning if birdwatchers get Warbler Neck or need emergency chiropractic. I loved watching the Red Crested Hawks and their babies through the binoculars, but it did become a literal pain in the neck.
We spied an enormous Anhinga with a gigantic wingspan and bunch of other chirping species. Lots of twitter and tweeting happened, in the original sense of the words. While I enjoyed the trek, and wouldn’t say the morning was for the birds, this Pileated New Yorker probably needed an activity with a little more of a pulse.
So I tried kayaking. First let me say there are two things I hate about kayaking. Getting in and getting out. Getting in a kayak is like stuffing a round peg into an oval hole. My hips stay bruised for weeks. But getting out is so much horrifyingly worse.
I have to admit that no matter how much fun I am having kayaking I know that each paddle stroke brings me closer to the moment when I have to humiliate myself on the dismount.
Sometimes, after struggling mightily and still failing to eject myself from the tiny kayak cubby, I just capsize and float out like Shelly Winters in The Posiedon Adventure.
Putting my rational fear behind me, I was ready to try the sport again. I’d been twice before on large expanses of open water. This time it was a route in and out of the mangrove bushes along small backwater canals.
So I flopped down into the boat, acquiring the requisite bruises, and shoved off into the mangroves. I was doing pretty well, keeping up with the group and learning to paddle smoothly. It seemed that the correct stroke propelled me forward nicely while sending a cascade of water, from one raised paddle, then the other, directly into my crotch. At this rate, I might float out of the vehicle mid-adventure.
Everything was going swimmingly until I looked at the shore and saw the proverbial bump on a log. With eyes. And a huge head and scaly body. The 8-foot alligator watched me as warily as I watched him. The rest of the kayak crew responded to my stammering and pointing with, “Not to worry, they’re not interested.”
Really? If big boy was on the bank, who else was in the water? Wish they had alarm clock warning systems like Captain Hook’s nemesis.
Completely unnerved, I tried to enjoy the rest of the voyage, but it was tough. Now, even my failsafe method of exiting the boat was compromised. No way would I ever capsize into an alligator pool. Bonnie would have to put the kayak in the car with me still lodged in it.
So we got back, and Bonnie recruited one of the kayak rental guys to help yank me out of the boat. It was indeed humiliating but not as bad as imagining myself in the belly of the beast.
In the car coming home, I explained to Bonnie that my wet pants were from water dripping off the paddles and no, I did not pee myself when I saw the alligator. I don’t think she believed me. Okay, I don’t think you believe me.
So I’m home and it’s back to more comfortable activities for me. I’ll head off to have a sandwich at Lori’s and sit in the CAMP Rehoboth Courtyard to watch all the strange birds in our town. And for tonight I’m a pro at getting on and off a barstool at Mixx. See you there!
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach, For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries, and her newest book Time Fries—Aging Gracelessly in Rehoboth Beach.