I am a nerd. The nerd part of me, which dates back to before the word was popularized, did not do me well during my pre-teen years. In spite of its title, the movie The Revenge of the Nerds did not help. The more recent development of “nerd chic”, however, has made life easier for nerds everywhere. Thank you, Sheldon and Leonard!

I am also a deep introvert. This seems to surprise some people, since I work as a pastor, and have what most people qualify as pretty good people skills. But every Monday, when my weekend work peak has passed, I literally head for the hills, and recharge my batteries with a healthy dose of total solitude. And lots of birds, of course.

The world is not very accepting of introverts, in spite of the fact that many, if not most, of history’s greatest creative geniuses out there belonged to this category. This may be one reason why it is so hard to explain to non-birders the solitary passion that is birding. A general suspicion of all things solitary makes it hard to justify the hours we spend alone and in underpopulated places.

Yes, I know that birding can be turned into a social experience of sorts, but it will still always involve lots of silence and stealth. Even group birding mostly falls in the category of “parallel play”. Which is just fine with me! Chatty birders, frankly, drive me a little crazy. Quiet birders, on the other hand, have often come to be numbered among my (relatively few) friends.

But sometimes the universe manages to bring equilibrium to its misunderstood subjects. In these latest troubled times, one of the key practices being promoted is “social distancing”. We are told to avoid close physical proximity for the duration of the current epidemic/pandemic. This is very bad news for those whose battery-recharging times depend on movie theaters, restaurants, clubs, and gyms. But for introverts and birders? No problem! We have been distancing ourselves socially for years!

My wife, who has never met a health precaution that she doesn’t love, has fully embraced the CDC’s recent recommendation that people aged 60 or more stay home as much as possible. I love her, so I will accept that limitation as much as possible. But I have already announced that my birding schedule shall not be changed. After all, no human contact need be involved. I shall remain socially distanced at all times.

Only one type of social proximity will be allowed, and that is the proximity that occurs when some bird decides to draw closer than usual. If they want to take an especially good picture, what can I do? Here, and above, are a few examples from past outings, of birds that surprised me with such close encounters, that very little photo trimming was needed. You may notice that several of these birds were otherwise involved, feeding or gathering nesting materials:

This Hutton’s Vireo was busy with its meal of bee.

While this Spotted Wren had nesting materials to gather.

And this Great Kiskadee was enjoying a delicious crab claw.

I think this Curve-billed Thrasher knew I couldn’t get to him. No way, no how.

And this Blue Mockingbird simply had not made his getaway yet.

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, being pure attitude, can’t be bothered to flee.

I honestly wondered if this Great Blue Heron might not try to peck me with that beak. (It was sitting on a marina walkway, so it was clearly acclimated to human presence.)

So, my avian friends, please understand that “social distancing” does not apply to you. Come as close as you like.

Thank God this particular viral strain is not a “Bird Flu”.

Written by Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis moved from California to Mexico in 1983. He lived first in Mexicali, and now lives in the historic city of Morelia (about halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City), where he and his wife pastor a small church. He is the author of an internationally distributed book in Spanish about family finances and has recorded four albums in Spanish of his own songs. But every Monday, he explores the wonderful habitats and birds found within an hour of his house, in sites which go from 3,000 to 10,000 feet of altitude. These habitats include freshwater wetlands, savannah grasslands, and pine, oak, pine/oak, pine/fir, cloud, and tropical scrub forests.