Who Watches the Bird Watchers?

Just this past weekend we here at MojoFiction finally pulled ourselves out of the gym and went for an outdoor run. Naturally, there is a big difference between exercising on a treadmill and taking the workout outdoors. First of all, there are more ticks outside and, honestly, a lot more goose poop.

Why would there be goose poop on our running trail? We’re glad we asked that question for you.

See, we went for our run at a forest preserve along the Fox River that is popular with, among other things, geese. Really, it’s a 24/7 party of nest-building, mating, clubbing, and pooping. We’ve called the authorities several times because of all the after-hours noise, but they’ve never done anything about it. Probably because of payoffs from the clout-heavy goose lobby.

watch were you step on that carpet later...
watch were you step on that carpet later…

You’d think they’d at least force them to pick up all their beer cans.

Of course, the forest preserve offers non-goose life forms several activities as well. And the turtles and frogs and fish are happy to take advantage of it with all their sun-tanning, croaking, and fancy underwater breathing. They are basically all just a bunch of hedonists who can get away with it because it’s “nature.” All humans get to do there is walk around and go fishing.

But there is another, far stranger life form that calls the forest preserve home: Bird watchers.

When we arrived at the preserve it was just after 8am, which is when the preserve officially opens, so we figured we’d get at least a few minutes to ourselves on the trails. Turns out there were already about twenty cars in the lot. We pulled in near the trailhead and got out of our vehicle. That’s when we saw them. About 30 middle-aged+ human life forms wearing cargo shorts and sun hats and carrying cameras with tripods and humongous telephoto lenses.

We ducked behind our car so as not to disturb them in their natural state. Then we slowly peeked over the front hood and watched as they gathered together at the trailhead in a rarely seen, complex ritual known as “Waiting for Bob and Anne to Arrive.” At this point, we figured we had some time because, according to the loud chirping coming from the group, Bob and Anne had stopped at McDonald’s for coffee.

The best way to get around a chattering group of bird watchers is to act naturally and don’t make eye contact. But especially don’t look at their cameras or they will pull you aside and talk to you about them in great detail on how they used them to get an amazing close-up shot of a mallard’s eyeball.

We ducked out (see what we did there?), keeping our head down, and slowly, quietly jogged around them and on to the trail. Along our morning jog, we spotted several lone bird watchers who had broken from the group early and set up at strategic locations around the preserve. These sentinel bird watchers make sure the area is clear and safe from unthinking civilians who might make a lot of noise and scare nature away (which actually happened once and we couldn’t find nature for, like, a whole week). If you get too close, they make a high-pitched noise that sounds something like, “Good morning!” which they’ve learned to mimic from regular humans and they wield it like camouflage, making you think that nothing is going on.

After we completed our first circuit around the path we were on, we noticed that Bob and Anne must have finally arrived because suddenly the group surged forward, turning as one from their conversations and moving down the path towards the interior and the small lakes and streams that dotted the forest preserve. When you see a gaggle of bird watchers heading right for you, don’t panic. Just calmly smile and wave, which will distract them, and then crank up the afterburners and get out of there! Especially if you’ve brought along young children, which may cause the older females of the bird-watcher species to approach and dote on them with casual conversation that will never ever end because there is literally no polite way to get out of it.

We didn’t have any kids with us this time so we ran ahead of them while we smiled and waved and then we darted behind a bush to watch as they moved in formation, often talking and laughing and doing something with their hands that looked like gesturing, or possibly sipping coffee. Their ability to blend in with the human population is astonishing and we had to get pictures. Unfortunately, we were quickly approached by a forest preserve official who asked us to move along because hiding behind bushes and taking pictures of people is highly suspicious activity, and also pretty creepy.

We tried to explain to the official that we simply didn’t want to spook the bird watchers, but they weren’t buying it. Then we noticed him nod knowingly to a couple of large geese waddling down the path towards us and we knew who was in charge.

Now we know. Next time, we’re wearing cargo shorts and bringing a camera with an eight-foot telephoto lens. Then we’ll get to the bottom of this…

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