Birding Business April 2015: Lighter Side

The Lighter Side
 of the Birding Biz

BY RICH CRETE | Contributing Editor

Sometimes customers can be inadvertently funny

We’ve all heard the stories about how a customer’s squirrels are the smartest squirrels on the planet because they can do certain things that amaze.  We listen and nod, trying not to tell that customer his or her squirrels are exactly the same as everyone else’s squirrels and we hear those same stories every day. Sometimes it can be very challenging not to chuckle a bit when listening and trying to help.

One lady came in and indicated she needed help identifying a certain bird she had never seen before. She explained that the mystery bird seemed black but had a sheen about it, sometimes flashing an iridescent blue-purple hew. The mystery bird was according to her, about normal bird size. I asked her where she had seen the bird and she assured me she had seen it at her sister’s house. Hmmm. Upon further questioning I discovered the sister lived in Iowa. I continued my queries to learn the bird was not seen on her sister’s feeders. I also asked if the bird was on the ground or in a shrub. Both negative. So I asked her what the bird was doing. She looked at me like I was dense and said in a very sincere voice “Going in and out of her purple martin house.”

Another came in and saw on my seed shelf a nut and berry mix I call Woodpecker Blend. She looked at me with disgust and gave me a “Tsk, tsk.” I assumed she was feeling a bit of price sticker shock. Wrong. She asked me “Why on earth would anyone ever try to feed those peckawoods?” I told her that many people love them because they are quirky and really pretty birds. She issued a heart-felt “Hmph!” and continued “It’s a known fact that if you see one of those peckawoods someone is surely going to die!”  I told her with a smile that I hadn’t heard that one before. She stated sadly “Well I would know because one day my Uncle Ed saw one and three years later he inexplicably died.” I replied, “Wow I’m sure sorry about that. Let’s not sell you any of that stuff then.”

Here’s one I know every one of us has had. A guy comes in with a picture of a bird. “I think I have a really rare bird. I’ve looked it up and it’s not in any of my books” He shows a picture of a female redwing on his feeder. “Very tough bird to ID” I say. “That is a female red-winged blackbird. They are tough because the females aren’t black and don’t have any red on the wings so they are not well named.”  He says “No, it’s not a blackbird.” So I patiently grab a field guide and look it up for him while explaining that it sure doesn’t look anything like the male and that some field guides can be frustrating because they don’t show both male and female birds. I show him the bird in the book, which looks like it was drawn from his picture. He says “Nope. It’s not a blackbird. So you don’t have any idea what it is either, huh? I knew it was rare.” I tell him rare birds are the best kind and while he’s in he should stock up on seed so it doesn’t leave.