George Armistead tells the story of the winter morning when he was standing in a landfill while on a birding walk. He got a call from
a girl he’d just started dating. “She asked me what I was doing.’’
Then he grinned. “Do I tell her I’m at a dump looking for birds? That it’s 10 degrees outside? And that it’s one of the highlights of my year?’’
Armistead, who started birding at age 9 and went on to become a research ornithologist at Drexel University and now leads birding trips all over the world, was delivering the keynote speech at the annual Wings over Water birding festival on North Carolina’s Outer
Banks. The roomful of birders from around the country smiled with him as he took up one of the quandaries of our pastime.
Why do birders do what they do? How do they explain it to others? Why do they walk for miles in the rain, wind and sometimes snow in search of a glimpse of a bird?
He had one of the best explanations we’ve heard.