Flying Cigars and On We Go

My first organized bird walk resulted when I saw a notice in the local paper that renowned Canadian birder, Bruce DiLabio was going to be leading a spring bird walk at the Britannia Filtration Pond in Ottawa…interested people should show up at the appointed meeting place at 6:00 am.
With my second marriage about to disintegrate in tatters around me, I had been looking for something for me to do, just me. Something that resonated within my spirit…fun, fulsome, and fulfilling. And this really felt like “it”! As I drove to the meeting place one very early Saturday morning, I felt happy and excited, believing that I was about to embark on the lifelong adventure that I’d been looking for for years!
And so it began. A motley crew gathered in the parking lot, and before half were even out of their cars, Bruce was calling “Chimney Swift at 9 o’clock”. I looked around, saw a dark cigar shaped speck off in the distance about 2 miles away, and knew that this was going to be a bit of a challenge!
The group ranged in age from 8 to 80, and we represented almost every cultural group found in Canada’s capital. Happily assembled, we started along the trail circling the pond, following our learned leader as he called out names to flashes of colour above, below and beyond.
I was awestruck, and overwhelmed! I would never figure out what that small yellow wink was heading into the bush. Or that grey blur, or the pipping in the cedars. Feeling quite disheartened and totally out of my comfort zone, I decided to call it a day, and head back home. Which is when I heard a whispered, high pitched “Help!” And again, “Helllp”. Looking around I couldn’t see anyone in distress, the entire group was busy training their binoculars on a bit of fluff high up in the pines, necks tilted, binoculars engaged. And again, “Hhheeelp”. And there right behind me was an older gentleman, quite tall, who in his eagerness to see fluff feather overhead, had overextended his neck…and it was locked in at full back tilt. He couldn’t move…until I gently placed my hand on the back of his head, and just as gently, pushed it forward, releasing him in to the fully upright position.
We laughed, causing others to look. He explained he had been necking with himself and got caught, and more laughter ensued. Bruce went on to discuss ways to prevent Birder’s Neck (who knew??) and we proceeded on, as a bonded group of beginning birders, having a great time on a fresh spring morning. And that was it! I was hooked on birding! I didn’t leave, and I never looked back.