Kingbird Highway Quotes

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Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder by Kenn Kaufman
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Kingbird Highway Quotes Showing 1-21 of 21
“But in the early 1970s, we were not birdwatching. We were birding, and that made all the difference. We were out to seek, to discover, to chase, to learn, to find as many different kinds of birds as possible — and, in friendly competition, to try to find more of them than the next birder. We became a community of birders, with the complications that human societies always have; and although it was the birds that had brought us together, our story became a human story after all.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“ Dreams and coffee and sunrises make up the rhythms of the road.
Music is a part of it, too: the popular music on the jukeboxes and radio stations. You hear it constantly, in diners and on car radios. The music has a rhythm that fits the steady drumming of tires over pavement. It seeps into your bloodstream. After a while it ceases to make any difference whether or not you like the stuff. When you’re traveling alone, a nameless rider with a succession of strangers, it can give you a comforting sense of the familiar to hear the same music over and over.
At any given time, a few current hits will be overplayed to exhaustion by the rock & roll stations. In hitching across the continent, you might hear the same song fifty or sixty times. Certain songs become connected in your mind with certain trips.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Haunting the library as a kid, reading poetry books when I was not reading bird books, I had been astonished at how often birds were mentioned in British poetry. Songsters like nightingales and Sky Larks appeared in literally dozens of works, going back beyond Shakespeare, back beyond Chaucer. Entire poems dedicated to such birds were written by Tennyson, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and many lesser-known poets. I had run across half a dozen British poems just about Sky Larks; Thomas Hardy had even written a poem about Shelley’s poem about the Sky Lark. The love of birds and of the English language were intermingled in British literary history.
Somehow we Americans had failed to import this English love of birds along with the language, except in diluted form. But we had imported a few of the English birds themselves — along with birds from practically everywhere else.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“This is the West. We expect things to be tough out here.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Where would the would-be “purists” draw the line between native and alien elements? This whole planet was altered by the hand of man.
A birder who scorned the alien Sky Larks might stand on San Juan and salute the native eagles . . . but some of those eagles had been released here; and they were living on an unnaturally high population of rabbits, from another continent, introduced here. The rabbits, in turn, were probably feeding on alien plants from other lands that were naturalized here — if the San Juan roadsides were anything like all the other roadsides in North America. And we birders of European descent were introduced here also, a few generations back. Even my Native American friends of the night before could claim to be “native” in only a relative sense; their ancestors had come across the Bering land bridge from Asia. None of us is native here.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“It is now late August 2005. He has interrupted work on his ninth book to go to Sweden with his beautiful fiancee, Kimberly, and right now he is standing with his Swedish translator, getting ready to deliver a rousing bilingual speech to a crowd of hundreds at a grandstand next to the Baltic Sea. How far will this ride take him? If he had just checked off his bird list and gone home, the ride would have ended long ago. That’s the main thing I’ve learned from the young man I once was and from his still-continuing adventures. Yes, it’s good to go on a quest, but it’s better to go with an open mind. The most significant we find may not be the thing we were seeking. That is what redeems the crazy ambivalence of birding, As trivial as our listing pursuit may be, it gets us out there in the real world, paying attention, hopeful and awake. Any day could be a special day, and probably will be, if we just go out to look.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Careful readers will note that the guy who “won” was hardly a shining example of birding ethics. What kind of person would pay thousands of dollars for flights and car rentals to chase a rare bird and then try to avoid paying a couple of bucks to get into a state park? Real birders carry their share, do their part, try to support the resource that supports birding.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“One night early in my travels I had had a dream about a birder who rode through the West, identifying everything in sight, and his binoculars were made of gold. The next day I had bought some cheap gold enamel and painted mine. The gold soon faded to a sickly greenish yellow.)”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“As I walked in the front door, with the glare of early morning sun still in my eyes, I had the illusion that I saw someone I recognized. She was sitting in a chair near the door, reading a magazine, and she looked for all the world like--

But it couldn't really be her, of course. She would have had to talk her protective father into giving her permission. She would have had to drive all night from Baltimore, taking the freeways and turnpikes north through New Jersey and New York and New England. That was the only way she could be here now, putting down her magazine and rising and coming toward me with a smile on her face.

If I could have looked down the years then and seen everything from beginning to end--the good times, the best times, the bad times, the bad decisions, the indecision, and the finally the divorce--I still would not have traded anything for that moment.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Listening, I suddenly realized who the man was. This was the legendary leader of the northern California birders, Rich Stallcup, the Pirate of Point Pinos.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“On a typical Big Day, the most productive period is a two-hour span centered on sunrise. That is when most of the small birds are most vocal. The emphasis is on listening rather than looking, since a bird heard counts the same as a bird seen.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“It was one of those mornings when you realize, with chilling clarity, that birding is a ridiculous activity.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“But a few minutes later, talking to me, he repeated his original point: the important thing was that it had not felt like a skua. “When there’s a skua in the neighbor hood,” said Rich, “you know there’s something happening. It’s a big, tough bird, it’s a pirate . . . you can feel the excitement pouring out from it. You’ll know it, for sure, when we see one.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“I had figured out something that seemed important: every bird had its place. None was “free as a bird.” A few kinds were found all over the continent, but they were the exceptions.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Rich, I don’t understand. Nobody around here seems to be very competitive. You’re not into competing. So how come you’re working so hard on this year list?”

Rich smiled. “That’s worth thinking about,” he said. “But look, the list itself doesn’t matter. The record doesn’t matter. It’s like when a bunch of friends are playing football in the back yard, you go all out to win, but afterwards it doesn’t matter who won. Here’s what’s different about it, though,” he said, turning serious. “The list total isn’t important, but the birds themselves are important. Every bird you see. So the list is just a frivolous incentive for birding, but the birding itself is worthwhile. It’s like a trip where the destination doesn’t have any significance except for the fact that it makes you travel. The journey is what counts.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Californians spoke derisively of all the exotic birds that had established feral populations in Florida, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Los Angeles basin was also full of escaped parrots and the like.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“A new perspective was dawning on me. As a crass young bird-lister, I might have said: a trip to the Tortugas is good, because it adds species to the total. But a better viewpoint would be: working on a list is good, because it gives me an excuse to come to the Tortugas. After this Big Year was over, I hoped, I would be wise enough to come back to this place for its own sake.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“The spark for a relationship might come for free—a look, a word. But the fuel to keep it going would always be expensive.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“So you don’t know about the bird names!” said Rose Ann. “It’s a Texas tradition. Edgar Kincaid started it—he calls himself the ‘World’s Oldest Cassowary,’ and he’s given bird names to lots of us. ‘Peli’ is short for ‘Pelican.’ People used to think her name was Suzanne Winckler, but Edgar re-identified her. ‘A wonderful bird is the pelican . . .’” “So I’m the Brown Pelican,” Peli interrupted. “Rosie is the Western Grebe, if she isn’t the Upland Plover instead.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“BAD LUCK on the road can last only so long; then you die, or your luck improves.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
“Son, can I help you with something?” the man asked. “Maybe,” I said. “I think that guy up there is about to shoot my backpack.”
Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder