Transcript: Birding! | Sep 02, 1996

Two plastic flamingos in a garden appear. Then the view zooms out to show a man walk towards a bird feeder that sits along a rock fence and fills it with bird seed.

Joey is in his mid forties and has short brown hair that is parted on the side and a brown beard. He wears khaki shorts with a yellow shirt, a watch and red suspenders.

The caption reads “Joey Singer. Author, “Down and Dirty Birding.”

Joey says I GOT STARTED IN THE MOST
MUNDANE SORT OF WAY,
WRITING FOUR COLUMNS
A WEEK FOR
THE STAR.
AND NOT HAVING
VERY MUCH TO SAY.
NOT HAVING FOUR COLUMNS
WORTH OF STUFF TO SAY,
REALLY WHEN IT
CAME DOWN TO IT.
SO AT LEAST ONE DAY A WEEK,
FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS
AT THE STAR
,I'D GO
FOR A WALK AROUND TOWN
AND JUST DESCRIBE
WHAT I SAW.
AND IT BECAME KIND OF A
CHALLENGE TO FIND SOMETHING
THAT WASN'T ENTIRELY URBAN.
SO I WAS EXPLORING RAVINES,
AND THAT SORT OF THING,
WANDERING AROUND.
AND I WOULD SEE STUFF, AND I
WOULD ATTEMPT TO DESCRIBE IT,
AND I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT
THE HELL I WAS SEEING.
LIKE I WOULD SEE A BROWN
BIRD, AND A RED BIRD,
AND THAT SOUNDED KIND OF
STUPID AFTER A WHILE.
SO I SET OUT TO TRY TO
FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY WERE,
JUST IN ORDER TO SOUND A
LITTLE BIT MORE INTELLIGENT.
AND KIND OF GOT INFECTED
WITH THE BUG OF IDENTIFYING
THE STUFF AROUND ME.

A black screen appears. It reads “The Love Affair Begins” in white letters.

A clip shows birds flying in formation across the sky, next a bird house in a tree with a sparrow sitting on a branch in front, then two ducks gliding in the water.

Jay sits in his garden and speaks.

Joey says I GOT SMITTEN FOR A
COUPLE OF REASONS.
ONE IS I HAD NO IDEA, AND THIS
WILL SOUND KIND OF GOOFY,
BUT HOW BEAUTIFUL BIRDS ARE.
THEY ARE STRIKINGLY
SPECTACULAR,
EVEN MODESTLY COLOURED
ONES, WHETHER THE LITTLE
HOUSE SPARROW IN THE
GARDEN BIRDBATH,
OR THE ONES THAT LOOK ENTIRELY
GREY LIKE GADWALL DUCKS,
AND THAT SORT OF THING.
THERE'S WONDERFUL
ELEGANCE IN THEM.
THE SECOND THING IS, IF
YOU'RE AT ALL A VOYEUR,
AND I THINK MOST OF
US IN JOURNALISM ARE,
BIRDS ARE AMONG THE MOST
WONDERFUL CREATURES GOING
BECAUSE IT SATISFIES
YOUR ENTIRE DESIRE
TO SEE EVERYTHING.
YOU CAN'T GO AND PEEK IN
YOUR NEIGHBOUR'S WINDOW.
AND IF YOU WATCH A RACCOON,
IT SPENDS MOST OF ITS LIFE
OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.

A clip shows a box of pigeons being set free, then white birds are shown in their nest on the forest ground with their young.

Joey continues BUT BIRDS DO EVERYTHING
RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU.
THEY COURT, THEY BREED
RATHER SPECTACULARLY
AND SPONTANEOUSLY.
THEY BUILD THEIR
LITTLE NESTS.
THEY RAISE THEIR
LITTLE YOUNG.
THEY TEACH THEM HOW TO
FLY AND HOW TO HUNT
AND HOW TO FEED,
AND THEY CARRY ON.
AND THIS, I THINK, IS AN
AWFULLY GENEROUS THING
OF NATURE TO HAVE
DONE, TO LET US IN
THIS KIND OF
WINDOW OF ITSELF.
[birds chirping]

A black screen appears. It reads “Crazy as a Jay Bird” in white letters.

Jay says I'M NOT AS INFECTED
AS SOME PEOPLE ARE.
THERE'S A BREED- A SPECIES
OF BIRD WATCHER
THAT IN NORTH AMERICA
WE CALL LISTERS.
AND THEY'RE CRAZED.
THIS IS BIRDING
AS A BLOOD SPORT.
AND THE BRITS CALL
THEM TWITCHERS,
WHICH IS PROBABLY A
MORE ACCURATE THING
BECAUSE THEY SEE A BIRD AND
THEY TWITCH, LIKE THAT.
AND ALL THEY WANT TO SEE
THE NEW SPECIES BANG,
BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG.
AND THEY GO CHARGING ALONG.
THEY GO LIKE A PANZER
DIVISION THROUGH THE WOODS.

[Gun noises from Jay’s mouth]

Jay continues ADDING UP HOW MANY,
HOW MANY, HOW MANY.
AND IT BECOMES
FEROCIOUSLY COMPETITIVE.
AT THE END OF THE
DAY, YOU DON'T SAY
DID YOU SEE
ANYTHING NICE?
YOU SAY, HOW MANY
DID YOU SEE?
AND THAT'S THE
KEY QUESTION.
AND I'VE, TO A
DEGREE, AVOIDED THAT,
BUT WE CAN ALL GET SUCKED
IN FROM TIME TO TIME.

A clip shows a rooftop with a bird perched on the crest of a triangle roof.

Jay says THERE ARE THE
TWO SCHOOLS.
THERE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE PATHOLOGICALLY SERIOUS.
THE WORLD'S CHAMPION
BIRDER, AT THE MOMENT,
IF YOU CONSIDER
NUMBERS THE MEASURE,
IS PHOEBE SNETSINGER FROM
PINE BLUFFS, MISSOURI.
AND PHOEBE HAS SEEN
7,333 SPECIES OF BIRDS.
WHEN YOU FIGURE THAT THERE ARE
PROBABLY ONLY BETWEEN 9,000
AND 10,000 SPECIES OF
BIRDS ON THE WHOLE PLANET,
YOU KNOW, PHOEBE'S
SEEN TWO-THIRDS
OR THREE-QUARTERS
OF THEM.
YOU SEE, WE'RE
TALKING ABOUT SERIOUS
OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE
DISORDER HERE.
[Birds chirping]

A black screen appears. It reads “Seeing is not believing” in white letters.

Joey motions to the garden floor as he sits on the stacked rock fence.

Joey says ONE OF THE TRICKY
THINGS ABOUT BIRDING,
APART FROM THE COMPETITIVE
BUSINESS OF RUNNING UP
BIG NUMBERS IS SEEING SOMETHING
THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS SEEN.
FOR INSTANCE, LAST
FALL, NORA, MY WIFE,
HOPPING AROUND THE BACKYARD
HERE - NOT HER HOPPING AROUND,
BIRDS HOPPING AROUND -
SAW WHAT SHE BELIEVES TO BE
GOLDEN CROWN SPARROWS,
A PAIR OF THEM.
WELL, GOLDEN CROWN
SPARROWS NORMALLY LIVE
OUT IN MANITOBA
AND WESTWARD.
SO FOR THEM TO BE HERE,
WHILE NOT UNHEARD OF,
IT'S QUITE RARE.
BUT I DON'T THINK SHE'S ALL
THAT HOT A BIRDER SO OF COURSE
I NATURALLY DISMISSED HER
CLAIM THAT SUCH A THING
COULD EXIST MOSTLY
BECAUSE I DIDN'T SEE IT.
AND TO HAVE HER SEE IT, AND ME
NOT, WOULD HURT MY FEELINGS,
SO TO HELL WITH HER.
[Birds chirping]

A black screen appears. It reads “Attracting Attention” in white letters.

Joey acts out the motions of a bird that is being attacked by a weasel.

Joey says THERE ARE A NUMBER OF
WAYS PEOPLE BELIEVE
THEY CAN ATTRACT BIRDS.
IF THERE ARE BIRDS
IN THE UNDERBRUSH,
YOU CAN TEMPT THEM OUT.
AND THE ONE THAT'S DONE
MOST IS CALLED PISHING.
AND MOST THINGS BIRD WATCHERS
DO WHEN THEY DESCRIBE
TO OTHER PEOPLE ARE THINGS
THAT CAUSE PEOPLE TO THINK
BIRD WATCHERS ARE REALLY DORKY,
AND PISHING IS ONE OF THOSE.
AND IT GOES LIKE THIS,
PISHHHH - YOU DON'T SAY PISH -
YOU SAY PISHHH,
PISHHH, PISHHH.
AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BRING
BIRDS COME RACING FORWARD,
SAYING, OH, WATCH ME,
WATCH ME, WATCH ME.
THE THEORY IS WHEN A WEASEL
OR A FALCON OR SOMETHING
HAS GOT A LITTLE BIRD, ITS
DYING GASP - PISH, PISH, PISH.
THAT'S THE STRANGLING SOUND
IT MAKES AS IT PASSES AWAY.
AND THE OTHER BIRD
COME RUSHING TO SEE
WHAT THIS THREAT IS.AND THEN YOU GET-
BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE
ANY SENSE TO ME
BECAUSE IF YOU SAW, IF
YOU KNEW YOUR FRIEND FRED
WAS BACK THERE GETTING
STRANGLED BY A WEASEL,
UNLESS YOU'RE, YOU KNOW,
SUPERBIRD, YOU'D SAY,
LET'S GET THE
HELL OUT OF HERE.
SO WHY WHEN YOU PISH, PISH,
THEY DON'T RUN THE OTHER WAY,
WHY YOU THINK THEY'D
RUN THIS, I DON'T KNOW.
THAT'S PISHING.
THE ONLY THING-
[Chirping]
YOU CAN DO THAT AND IT'S CHIRPING.
[Chirping]
THAT'S SUPPOSED TO DRAW
THEM LIKE FLIES, TOO.
AS YOU CAN SEE.
STANDING RIGHT HERE.
THE THREE BASIC SONGS OF
THE NORTHERN CARDINAL.
THERE'S THE...
BIRDEE, BIRDEE,
BIRDEE, BIRDEE.
AND THE HOIT, HOIT,
HOIT, HOIT.
AND THE WITEER,
WITEER, WITEER.
THOSE ARE THE THREE BASIC
SONGS OF THE NORTHERN CARDINAL.
[Birds screeching]
A black screen appears. It reads “Talking Dirty” in white letters.

Jay says WHEN WE GO BACK TO EVOLUTION,
AND THINK HOW CLEVER
IT CAN BE, SOMETIMES WE
SEE THAT HUMAN BEINGS
ARE NOT THE BE-ALL AND THE
END-ALL OF ANIMAL DESIGN.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT BIRDS DO IS WHEN
THEY'RE BABIES, WHEN
THEIR BABIES POOPADOOP,
AS IF THEY'VE FIRST SWALLOWED
A WHOLE BUNCH OF BAGGIES.
SO WHEN THEY GO TOITY, IT
COMES OUT IN THIS CUTE
LITTLE LIKE PLASTIC SACK,
WHICH MAKES IT VERY EASY.
THE PARENTS CAN THEN
JUST THEN PICK IT UP,
AND DROP IT OVER THE
EDGE OF THE NEST.
OR THEY CAN EAT IT.
WHICHEVER.
SOMETIMES THEY DO THE ONE,
SOMETIMES THEY DO THE OTHER,
I'M AFRAID.
I DIDN'T MAKE THE RULES.
BIRD COPULATION IS
PROBABLY - I MEAN,
WHAT REALLY EVERYBODY WANTS
TO KNOW IS HOW DO THEY DO IT?
DO THEY DO IT IN THE AIR?
NO.
OR ON THE WING OF ANY
SORT DO THEY DO IT.
THE OTHER THING THAT'S TRICKY
ABOUT BIRD COPULATION
IS THAT BIRDS DON'T HAVE WHAT
WE THINK OF AS GENITALS...
WHICH IS THE PHRASE THAT A
HUMMINGBIRD IS HUNG
LIKE A HUMMINGBIRD
IS REALLY TRUE.

Jay places one palm of his hand on top of the back of another hand as he motions how birds copulate. Then he shifts his hands so that both hands are open palmed and facing one another.

Jay say BUT WHAT'S AMAZING,
BIOLOGISTS HAVE WATCHED BIRDS
FOR A LONG TIME, AND THEY DO
IT, THAT'S YOUR LADY BIRD,
AND THIS IS YOUR MAN BIRD COMES
ALONG AND HOPS ON HER BACK.
AND IT'S THE CLINICAL - THE
BIOLOGICAL TERM IS DOGGY STYLE.
AND EVERYBODY THOUGHT
THAT'S HOW THEY DO IT.
EXCEPT THEY'VE GOT A PROBLEM
HERE BECAUSE HER TAIL
IS IN THE WAY, AND ALL
THIS SORT OF THING.
BUT IN FACT, I DISCOVERED
BY WATCHING CAREFULLY,
THAT THEY IN FACT SCOOCH
AROUND TO GET INTO IT.
AND ACTUALLY, I'M THE FIRST BIRD
OBSERVER WHO HAS DETERMINED
THAT BIRDS ARE THE ONLY
OTHER CREATURES,
APART FROM US, THAT DO IT
IN THE MISSIONARY POSITION.
THE OTHER INTERESTING THING
ABOUT BIRDS DOING IT
IS PIGEONS ARE THE ONLY
OTHER CREATURE APART FROM US
THAT ARE HORNY
ALL THE TIME.
I MEAN, I DON'T MEAN
NECESSARILY ALL THE TIME,
BUT DON'T HAVE A SEASON
LIKE A BREEDING SEASON,
LIKE THE RUT.
THEY'RE IN HEAT.
THEY'RE IN HEAT WHENEVER
THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES.
AND WITH PIGEONS, IT ARISES
EVERY 20 MINUTES OR SO.
SO THAT'S IT HOW
THEY DO IT, BIRDS.
AND WHAT WE SHARE WITH THEM
IN COMMON.
BASICALLY, IT'S SEX.
[Birds screeching]

A black screen appears. It reads, “Fielding Questions” in white letters.

Jay walks on a dirt road in the forest where Ring-billed gulls are nesting on the ground.

Jay continues WE'RE GOING INTO WHAT
HAPPENS TO BE THE WORLD'S
LARGEST NESTING COLONY, BREEDING
COLONY OF RING-BILLED GULLS.
WHICH IS AN ODD SORT OF
DISTINCTION THAT TORONTO
SHOULD BOAST SUCH A THING,
BUT THE ODD THING ABOUT IT
IS THERE'S NO
SECOND LARGEST.
THERE WAS NO
LARGE ONE BEFORE,
AND THIS ONE GOT
TO BE LARGER.
THIS EXISTS ENTIRELY
BECAUSE THIS ENTIRE SPIT,
THREE MILES OUT, STICKING OUT
INTO THE LAKE WAS BUILT
WITH LANDFILL AND RUBBLE FROM
BUILDINGS THAT HAD BEEN
TORN DOWN, AND CREATED
A PERFECT ENVIRONMENT
FOR RING-BILLED GULLS.
SO OUT OF NOTHING, WE HAVE
CREATED ALMOST A MONSTER.
[Screeching]

Jay continues THIS IS ABOUT
ONE-TENTH, IF THAT,
OF THE RING-BILL
POPULATION OF THE SPIT.
IT SPREADS OVER TWO OR
THREE OF THESE HEADLANDS.
[Screeching]
IT'S NOISY.
IT SMELLS LIKE HELL.
AND IT MAKES A LOT OF
PEOPLE VERY NERVOUS. YOU KNOW
ALFRED HITCHCOCK
QUITE TO THE SIDE,
ANYTHING THAT IS JUST THIS
FECUND, SO MUCH LIFE AROUND YOU
IS SOMETHING WE'RE REALLY
NOT ACCUSTOMED TO.
[Screeching]

A black screen appears. It reads “Family Values” in white letters.

A clip shows grey baby gulls next to white adult gulls on the ground that is covered in ferns and red rocks.

Jay narrates IF YOU CAN SEE IN HERE, THERE
ARE ABOUT 20 BABY GULLS,
LITTLE CUTE LITTLE FLUFFY
GUYS STANDING AROUND.
THEY ALL LOOK THE
SAME TO US,
BUT THEN ALL THEIR PARENTS
LOOK THE SAME TO US.
BUT THE PARENTS CAN, PROBABLY
THROUGH SOME SORT OF SCENT,
IDENTIFY ITS OWN BABIES.
THE THING WE FORGET IS ALL
KINDS OF BIRDS ARE CARNIVORES.
BLUE JAYS, CROWS, GRACKLES
IN OUR BACKYARD WILL EAT
OTHER BIRDS' EGGS AND
OTHER BIRDS' NESTLINGS.
WELL, SO WILL SEAGULLS.
MOST BIRDS DON'T SEE THE BABY
BIRDS OF THEIR OWN SPECIES.
BUT IF A BABY BIRD WANDERS
TOO FAR FROM ITS TERRITORY.
AND YOU CAN SEE IT MIGHT
BE VERY DIFFICULT TO SAY,
IT MIGHT BE ONE
INCH OR TWO INCH,
IT MIGHT BE JUST OVER
A STICK OR SOMETHING,
THEN IT HAS INVADED THE
OTHER GULL'S TERRITORY.
AND THE OTHER GULL, THE MAMA
GULL, WILL EAT THAT BABY.
SO THOSE BABIES DON'T
WANDER AROUND TOO MUCH
BECAUSE THEY STEP
OUT OF LINE,
THEY'RE GOING TO BE LUNCH
FOR SOME OTHER GULL.
IF THEY HAPPEN, AND THIS IS
WHERE YOU KIND OF WORRY ABOUT
A GULL'S COMMITMENT TO FAMILY,
IF THE BABY HAPPENS TO GO
FOR A LITTLE STROLL,
AND WANDERS BACK, WELL,
ITS MAMA OR PAPA WON'T
RECOGNISE IT BECAUSE
IT'S COMING ACROSS THE
BORDER, ACROSS THE BOUNDARY,
AND THEY'RE JUST
AS LIABLE TO EAT IT.
SO RIGHT NOW, THE GREAT
DANGER THESE BABIES FACE
IS FROM THEIR NEIGHBOURS.
[Screeching]

A black screen appears. It reads “Finding Your Way” in white letters.

Jay holds several books and displays them: one book has drawings of birds and another with photos of birds. Lastly he shows a bird book by Roger Tory Peterson.

Jay says THERE ARE ALMOST AS MANY FIELD
GUIDES AS THERE ARE SPECIES
OF BIRDS, AND THEY'RE
PROBABLY JUST AS CONFUSING
TO SOMEONE BEGINNING IS
FIGURING OUT WHICH ONE TO USE.
SOME OF THEM ARE ILLUSTRATED
WITH DRAWINGS OF BIRDS.
SOME ARE ILLUSTRATED WITH
PHOTOGRAPHS OF BIRDS.
REALLY, WE RECOMMEND, FOR
THE BEGINNERS, I THINK,
THE EASIEST WAY IS WITH
DRAWINGS BECAUSE THESE ARE
MUCH MORE GENERAL.
THESE ARE KIND OF
IDEALIZED REPRESENTATIONS.
SO YOU GET A MORE GENERAL SENSE
OF WHAT THE BIRD LOOKS LIKE.
AND FOR THE REAL BEGINNER, THE
VERY BEST OF ALL, BAR NONE,
IS ROGER TORY PETERSON, WHO
SORT OF SITS ON THE LEFT HAND
OF THE GOD OF BIRD WATCHING,
AND IS A WONDERFUL WRITER,
PHOTOGRAPHER, AND ILLUSTRATOR.
BUT WHAT ROGER TORY PETERSON
HAS DONE, YOU CAN SEE IT HERE,
HE SPRINKLED LITTLE
ARROWS ON HIS BIRDS.
AND THESE ARE THE
KEY FIELD MARKS.
AND IF YOU ONLY GET A
SECOND TO SEE A BIRD,
THERE WILL BE TWO OR THREE
THINGS HE THINKS THAT HE WANTS- THAT WILL
STICK OUT IN YOUR MIND THAT
WILL DISTINGUISH THESE SPECIES
THAT ALL LOOK QUITE
SIMILAR AT THE OUTSET,
ONE FROM ANOTHER.

A clip shows the ocean in the distance and a rock island; Jay stands on the grass with binoculars.

Jay narrates ONE OF THE DISAPPOINTING
THINGS ABOUT BIRDING
IS THERE IS NOT A LOT OF
STUFF A BIRDER NEEDS.
A LOT OF PEOPLE, IN FACT, I
THINK GO INTO SOME PASTIMES
BECAUSE THEY LIKE
THE STUFF.
HUNTERS: YOU GET GUNS,
YOU GET AMMO BELTS,
YOU GET TO WEAR ALL
THAT CAMOUFLAGE GEAR.
MOTORCYCLISTS:
YOU GET BOOTS,
YOU GET YOUR LEATHERS,
YOU GET YOUR HELMET,
YOUR GOGGLES.
YOU CAN GET UNDERWEAR WITH
HARLEY DAVIDSON ON IT.
BUT ALL A BIRD WATCHER REALLY
NEEDS IS A PAIR OF BINOCULARS,
AND MAYBE SOME
BOOTS, YOU KNOW,
SOMETHING TO KEEP
YOUR FEET DRY,
AND SOMETHING TO KEEP YOU
WARM OR DRY IF IT'S RAINING.

The camera zooms out to show Jay and his binoculars.

Jay says AND THIS IS KIND OF - YOU
SOMEHOW WISH THERE WAS MORE
BECAUSE IF YOU'RE WALKING
THROUGH THE PARK WITH A PAIR
OF BINOCULARS, AND YOU DON'T
HAVE A LOT OF OTHER STUFF THAT
SAYS YOU'RE A BIRDER, THEY
MIGHT THINK YOU'RE A PERVERT,
OR WHO KNOWS, WHAT
ARE YOU UP TO?
ONE THING ABOUT
BINOCULARS, THOUGH.
THIS IS GOING TO
SOUND KIND OF OBVIOUS.
EXPENSIVE ONES ARE BETTER
BECAUSE WITH EXPENSIVE ONES
YOU SEE MORE BIRDS.
AND THAT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU'LL
SEE
MORE BIRDS WITH THEM,
OR SEE THEM ANY BETTER
BECAUSE ESPECIALLY AS YOU GET
ON AND YOU GET YOUR BIFOCALS
AND THIS SORT OF THING,
AN EXPENSIVE LENS
DOESN'T MAKE
ALL THAT MUCH
DIFFERENCE TO YOU.
WHAT HAPPENS, THOUGH, IS
BIRD EXPERTS LOOK AROUND
AT A BUNCH OF PEOPLE,
AND THEY SAY,
THE PERSON WITH THE EXPENSIVE
BINOCULARS IS PROBABLY -
UNLESS HE'S A COMPLETE
LUNATIC - THE EXPERT.
AND THERE'S NOTHING EXPERTS
LIKE MORE THAN SHOWING OFF
THEIR EXPERTISE AND
SHARING THEIR EXPERTISE.
IT'S HOW YOU GET YOUR ROCKS
OFF IF YOU'RE AN EXPERT.

A clip shows a gull soaring over the water and then land on the grass. Jay is shown overlooking the water with his binoculars.

Jay narrates SO IF YOU'VE GOT
EXPENSIVE BINOCULARS,
THEN EXPERTS COME UP TO
YOU, AND THEY'LL SAY,
HEY, DID YOU SEE THE
THING OVER THERE?
THE THING, THE THING?
AND AS LONG AS YOU DON'T SAY,
WHAT KIND OF A THING IS THAT?
AS LONG AS YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH
SHUT, SMILE AND NOD AND SAY,
OH, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
THEY'LL THINK YOU'RE
AN EXPERT, TOO.

Watch: Birding!