BIRD WATCHER’S DIGEST • MARCH/APRIL ’ 17 • birdwatchersdigest.com 45
But, no. The skipper didn’t see it.
My parents didn’t see it. Nobody
saw it. We had to see this!
I leapt up, gesticulated wildly,
and shouted, “peregrine falcon!”
at the top of my lungs. Weary
heads snapped up all around
me, obviously wondering why a
binocular-toting lunatic had been
allowed on board. No longer able
to pretend he didn’t see me, the
skipper cupped his ear, indicating
he couldn’t hear me. I shouted
again, stumbling into a railing as
I did so. Ever so reluctantly, the
skipper eased off the accelerator
and grabbed the microphone.
“Folks,” he said sounding
both annoyed and bored, “we’ve
got what our friend here calls an
“ A peregrine falcon!” I inter-
rupted. My pedantic correction
“Yes, yes,” he said again.
“An American falcon. Oh look,
there it goes,” the skipper said,
replacing the microphone in its
holster on the dash. With a few
strong, regal wing beats, the peregrine lifted off and was soon a
speck on the horizon. I couldn’t
blame it. I would, too, if I had
been called an American falcon
despite having a near worldwide
The skipper pushed back the
throttle and I lurched my way
back to my seat. Unable to make
eye contact with even my parents,
I stared off into south Florida’s
shimmering waters. I was defeat-
ed. If I was the skipper of this
boat, I concluded grumpily, I’d
brake for birds and call them by
their proper names. Whether it
was in a car or on a boat, riding
shotgun was painful indeed.
It was then, right in the midst
of my self-righteous stupor, that
I noticed a line of beautiful white
birds soaring some fifty yards off
the bow. I lifted off my seat but
hastily forced myself back down.
No. Not this time.
I wasn’t going to shout it out to
my fellow passengers. I’d annoyed
enough people for one day. Yes,
I was always birding. But that
didn’t mean I had to force others to do so, too. After all, even I
had been partly annoyed by my
son’s interruptive and pedantic
insistence on accurate avian
nomenclature. If the other passengers saw the beautiful white
birds and enjoyed them – great.
If they didn’t, they didn’t. But I
must admit that I—and certainly
my six-year-old—surely wished
that everybody on this blasted
boat knew one last thing. Yes,
these were white birds now flying
directly overhead. But, actually,
they were white ibises. a
Eli J. Knapp is a professor of
biology at Houghton College in
Houghton, New York.