Can’t Teal You How it Grebes Me Not to Duck My Latest Resolution

Don’t get me started on water-bird puns. At first they might be coot, but pretty soon they turn fowl.


Let me just admit, then, to being enough of a nerd wannabe that, for a New Year’s resolution (one of ’em), I set the goal of identifying all our local winter waterfowl by the end of February.

Why, you ask? I wish I had an answer.

Um, I like knowing stuff? True, but who doesn’t? You don’t see too many people out for walks with their Mac’s Field Guide, even around here.

Studying the field guide is fun? Also true. (Fun fact: when Son One was, well, one, we used to delight ourselves by asking him to point out the blue jay, the junco, the cardinal, etc, on one of those Mac’s Field Guides. He was great at it, and the fact that his nickname was Mac–icing on the cake.)

I can’t say it’s the thrill of the chase of truth, because I haven’t gone Full Bird Nerd and started toting binoculars around, so 75% of the time I’m just guessing. But I do like thinking that, thanks to Mac (the field guide, not the son), it’s now EDUCATED guessing.


“Western Grebe? I dunno, is the neck long enough? Maybe a loon, but they’re REALLY big–how far away is that guy?”

“Common Murre or Pigeon Guillamot? Winter plumage, so they look pretty much the same, but…aha…the back of the head is grey, not black–gonna go with Guillamot!”

“Look at those adorable little Buffleheads!” (Gotta love Buffleheads–they don’t look like anything else, and it’s a really fun word to say.)

[A disclaimer: all these babblings are (at least until now) inflicted on no one but myself. I do still have enough perspective to realize that my current mini-obsession is not widely shared.]

Western Grebe (courtesy Wikimedia)

Western Grebe (courtesy Wikimedia)

By my own very low standards, I’ve improved quite a bit in my past week. But a grebe is just as lovely even when I don’t know it’s a grebe. So I still haven’t answered the question: why do some of us like to be able to name things?

Anyone got a theory? Or a good bird-nerd story to share?

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