Thanks to all who submitted extraordinary bird stories for the Swarovski Optik
/ Bird Watcher’s Digest Birder of the Year contest. Pack your bags, Ed Kanze:
You’re going to Costa Rica with new Swarovski optics! By odd coincidence, this
is the same Ed Kanze who contributed “Cue the Jaws Theme Song: Deer Eating
Birds,” which appears on page 52 of this issue. A freelance writer, Ed has contributed many stories to BWD over the years, but the judges of this contest were
blind to the identities of the authorship of the submissions.
Picking one best story is always a challenge. Congratulations to runner-up
Benjamin Miller for his story, “The Final Quest.” Other memorable stories included
“You Never Forget Your First Cardinal,” by Betsy Miller Vixie, and “Mock Bird
Blues,” by Steven Nelson. Thanks to all who participated.
FIND A BIRD, GET A LIFE
One February morning 26 years ago, I clawed my way out of bed at 3
a.m. and set off to find a bird I’d never seen. What I discovered that day was
not only a northern hawk owl—a bird rarely seen in my native Northeast—
but a fabulous new life.
A few months earlier, on my 34th birthday, I’d gone on a nature walk led
by a friend of mine. In the woods I met a young woman with binoculars
who bowled me over with her brains, beauty, and radiant goodwill. She was
freshly divorced, and in rebooting her life had taken up bird watching. I’d
had birds on the brain for years and had recently emerged from a 6-year
romance that never quite got airborne. I showed up that day hoping to meet
someone. The rest of the story almost didn’t happen. I was too shy to ask for
a phone number and too modest to offer one. I did learn that Debbie would
be the counter-in-chief at a hawk watch the following Saturday. Three hundred miles away when I woke up that morning, I managed to arrive in time
to say hello. Then I stumbled. Stepping away to chat with former colleagues,
I returned to find Debbie gone.
My wonderful life today might have never come to pass had I not, a few
days later, been asked to lecture on trees at an Audubon meeting. I suspected
Debbie belonged to the group. There was little time to prepare, but without
hesitating, I signed on for the job. I was setting up the slide projector when
Birder of the Year: Ed Kanze