Counting chickens � before they hatch � is easier By Bob Karolevitz Phyllis participates in the annual Audubon bird count which has been taking place during the holiday season for more than a century.
She doesn't go on one of their expeditions, though. She just sits by the kitchen window, coffee cup in hand, and lists all the pine siskins, blue jays, gold finches and other assorted ornithological species gobbling up expensive seeds in our various feeders.
She has her bird books out to help her identify each feathered creature she sees. Then she calls in her sightings to Juli Wilcox, who is in charge of the yearly count in our area.
This is all well and good, and I applaud the diligence of those who take part in the census each year. The trouble is, Phyllis tries to get me into the act, too.
Frankly, I need another hobby like Rover needs fleas, but Phyllis insists.
"Help me count all those slate-colored juncos out there," she says.
Being a malleable sort, I try, but the birds don't cooperate. Every time I start adding them up, the fidgety little flyers go flitting off, and I have to begin all over again.
The stuffed ones in the museum I can count. The live ones are something else again.
"Stay put, you danged birds," I want to shout, but they wouldn't listen to me any more than my wife does.
As appreciative as I am of the annual survey, though, I'm convinced that I could never qualify as a spotter first-class. During World War II, for instance, I was never able to tell the difference between a Messerschmitt and a Mustang in flight. Which turned out to be a good thing because nobody ever assigned me to an antiaircraft gun.
In addition to identifying species, a good bird-counter in the Audubon Society's canvassing also must be able to determine whether he has spotted a boy chickadee or a girl chickadee.
That's another place where they lose me. I always figured that this doesn't make any difference except to another chickadee.
Consequently, it's only right that I should opt out as a participant in the yearly count. With my limited abilities, there would just be one way for me to join the scrutinizing crew.
I'd have to cheat!
I think I can identify our official state bird � the Chinese ring-necked pheasant � and one or two more obvious species like robin red breast and plain old blackbirds. After that, though, it would be strictly imagination.
Actually, I have my list all prepared in case they ever ask me to go on one of their counting expeditions. I'd really make great bird news when I revealed my exciting discoveries:
6 passenger pigeons
14 whooping cranes
9 dodo birds
I was tempted to throw in a couple of flying saucers, too, but that would be stretching the point. However, even without that, I'm sure my creative list would shake up the clan and get me blackballed before I earned my first merit badge.
Needless to say, I won't be joining the counting team, but I also won't belittle all those dedicated compilers who keep us informed about the bird population in our area.
Meanwhile, I'll help Phyllis get an accurate total of all those cute little juncos � if they'll just sit still long enough.
On the other hand, I think I'd just be better at counting chickens. Before they're hatched, that is!
© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz