Looking at Other People’s Bird Feeders

During the Albany County Christmas Bird Count on December 20, Danika and I had, not one, but two incidents involving people and us looking at their feeders.

Now our territory is a large land-locked section of North-Central Greene County in New York.  Almost 100% of the land is privately owned, so we do a lot of driving and I mean A LOT of driving.  However, we do come across a lot of bird feeders and we often (briefly) stop to count.  We don’t get out of the car, we often pull to the side and obey all traffic laws (most of the time!).

Our first stop was in a group of houses.  A feeder in front of one house, was full of junk (cracked corn, bread etc.) and had attracted a large number of Blue Jays and Starlings.  We spent a minute counting the birds and then moved on.  After we made it back to the main road to travel to our next location, a red pick up truck, roared up behind us, flashing his lights and blowing the horn.  We were at our turn anyway and turned, then he followed us!  We pulled over to let him go past, but he slowed down and positioned his truck to block us.  He rolled down his window.

“I saw you looking at my house!” he sneered at us.

“Okaaay…” Danika Responded.

“On Aquetuck Road, I saw you looking at my house!”

“We are doing an Audubon Bird Count today, we were just counting the Blue Jays on the feeder!”

“A What?”

“A bird count, today we are out counting all the birds in the area, it is done every year and helps organizations and states manage bird populations.”

“Oh.” he responded.  “You weren’t looking to steal my snow blower?”

“No.”

At this point, he told us of how he buys day old rolls from a Bakery in Albany and throws them out on the Ice of his little pond for the birds.  He was frustrated however that all he ever gets is Crows.  Turned out he also knew my father in-law and he left and we continued our count.  But it was a rather scary incident, it ended well but it could have been much worse.

Also on our count is a home with a glorious feeder set up.  Sunflower feeder, thistle feeders, suet, ground, trays, you name it, they have it!  The place is always hopping with good birds.  On our way through, we stopped (not in front of the house mind you, but up the street a bit), I started counting birds, while Danika added to our tallies.  A few moments later a woman comes tearing out of the house (with her New York State Trooper Jacket on, nice intimidate try, but she failed her roll) and motions to us to “Come Here” as if we were kids or a dog that had gone on the carpet.  She marches up to the car.

“What are you doing here.”

“Today is the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, its the day we count all the birds in the region for research purposes.” Danika replied (she is now the official Nightjar liason with Rednecks).

“Well my mother saw a man looking at the house with Binoculars.”

“Yep.” I replied.

“You were looking at the house?”

“No, the feeders outside”

“Oh.” she replied (a popular response with the suddenly enlightened paranoid).

Danika went on about how we look forward to stopping at their house every year because the have the best feeders in the area and there are always lots of birds.  The woman didn’t say much, but spun around and headed back inside.  The impression we got is this woman, never in a million years thought we were looking at birds.  She seemed surprised that we even knew she had feeders.  Again it ended well, but both incidents left us with a bad taste.

Anyone else have some interesting stories to share?

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3 responses to “Looking at Other People’s Bird Feeders

  1. At least you didn’t get arrested! There are some stories going around the NJ listserv about birders getting arrested for birding close to people’s houses.

  2. I suppose if the cops are after you, you are lucky. I once (and let me emphasize the “once”) counted my home town’s breeding House Martin population, a species that builts little nests from clay on ledges of buildings. It was in southern Germany and you have to do the count in July/August, which means it is really, really hot. Now of course I walked the streets looking at the houses with binoculars in the evening to avoid the sun and heat and let me tell you: most people will NOT believe you when you – a young teenager – tell them you are looking at their house in the evening with binoculars to count birds and not witness, you know, mating behaviour.

    Luckily I was quite good at running (100 m in 12.4 seconds) which helped avoid a black eye or two during that survey…

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