DI-DAPPERS & OTHER BIRDS OF A DIFFERENT NAME
I've been a
bird watcher since 1950 but in 1950 I didn't call myself a birdwatcher and neither did
those I was watching birds with. My grandpa and my dad took notice of birds, built bird
houses, and put out water and food for birds. Like a lot of seven year olds, I was doing
what the "grown ups" did. There were a lot of birds in
our South Alabama backyard. "Redbirds" and Blue Jays came to eat the dry
cornbread on the ground and a Mockingbird chased the cat. We called many of the birds by
name; some remained nameless. I know now that there were many we never even saw.
or American Coot
On a summer day we might catch a glimpse of a "Summer
Redbird" high in the pecan tree and at twilight a Whip-poor-will would call in the
grove at the edge of the pasture. Before and after a summer rain the "Rain
Crows" would announce the coming and passing of the shower. Bluebirds and sparrows
would nest in the houses and Martins would fill the gourds. We spent hours watching their
We fished a lot.
Pull-doos and Di-dappers would be on the lake and an
assortment of grey and white "Cranes" would stand along the shore. In the winter
the privet and pyracantha would fill up with droves of "Seals" gorging
themselves on berries. We once saw a flock become drunk from eating fermented
chinaberries. When we went squirrel hunting in the "Big Woods", we would
sometimes catch a flash of red, black, and white, and hear the sound of crazy laughter as
a large bird flew through the trees. Grandpa would stop in his tracks and
whisper, "Look! There goes a Lord God." This was always a special
Sparrow or Stink Bird
Waxwing or Seal
I hunted quail with my Uncle Charles behind some pretty high class bird
dogs, but occasionally "Ole Sport" would point a "Stink Bird" much to
the uncle's chagrin. We loved the forest, we loved to hunt and fish, and we loved the
Grandpa passed away before birdwatching became a national craze. In
about 1970 dad admitted that he might be a birdwatcher; sort of, that is. A short while
later I started calling myself a birder. I traveled near and far to see birds for my
growing list of lists. I started meeting "real" birders and noticed that they
called the birds by their "real" names. I had a lot to learn!
The "Seals", I found out, were Cedar Waxwings and the
"Summer Redbird" became a Summer Tanager. Our old favorite Whip-poor-will,
probably the same one Hank Williams (he grew up down the road a few miles) sang about,
turned out to be a Chuck-will's-widow. The gray and white "Cranes" were Great
Blues, Little Blues, Snowys, and other Herons and Egrets. There wasn't a Crane in the
Many of the "real" names were more exotic than the names
Grandpa called the birds by. The "Rain Crow", lo and behold, was a Yellow-billed
Cuckoo and the Di-dapper a Pied-billed Grebe. Pull-doo, so a "real" birder told
me, is South Alabamian for "Poule De Eaux" and this is Cajun French for
"Water Chicken". "Either one fits better than American Coot"
what grandpa would say. If "Ole Sport" were still around and still
sometimes pointing Chipping Sparrows instead of Bob-whites, for the sake of the old
would still call them "Stink Birds"
Woodpecker or Lord God
and Dad and Uncle Charles are gone now but memories and the birds remain.
Both are an important part of my life. Nowadays when I'm in the "Big
Woods" I sometimes catch a flash of red, black, and white
and hear the
maniac's laughter as a Pileated Woodpecker whooshes by. It's still a special
moment. In my mind it's 1950; I stop in my tracks, turn to Grandpa and
whisper, "Look! There goes a Lord God!
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