One of my projects for 2015 has been to see how many new birds I can “discover” in the city by getting to know the nature in my own neighborhood a little better. I’ve been doing pretty well, I think: so far I’ve spotted at least half a dozen kinds of birds I’ve never noticed before, and I’ve caught glimpses of a few mystery birds that I’m hoping to identify more definitively next time. Consequently, I tend to walk around more with my eyes to the tree branches than I did before, but I’ve become a little mindful of not lingering too much in public with my head tipped up into a tree hoping to catch site of some little cheeping bird, since it’s not the sort of thing that most people seem to do.

I’m not so self-conscious in the parks, but as far as my conduct in the regular city streets and neighborhoods goes, I try to be sensible about it: if I have binoculars with me I don’t point them at birds with houses behind them, and I also don’t scrutinize people’s yards too much either. Basically, I try not to look like I’m “casing” anything. Yesterday, though, I spent several minutes staggering around under a pine tree with my head tipped as far back as I could get it, craning my neck to try to catch sight of a bird between the dense branches… in front of an elementary school. If you also are an adult man without a child, then you’ll probably share my feeling that one is not supposed to linger too near a school for no discernible reason, so I carried on with my business of the day, and hoped that I hadn’t inadvertently triggered any lockdowns with my moderately abnormal performance.

Of course, If I ever wanted to just do whatever I wanted with impunity, I suppose I could just wear an orange vest and a white hardhat with three letters on it. As long as I had something I was using to take notes, and maybe a small to mid-sized yellow Pelican case, I think most folks would think I was just some kind of contractor out surveying… something. I could loiter for several minutes trying to catch sight of a bird, and then when I was done, I could just spray a little red “X” onto the ground, maybe arbitrarily label it with a “28”, and then move on. That might be an interesting social experiment, now that I think about it…