J. Drew Lanham is a writer and birder I’ve come to appreciate over the last year. He and others came to my attention during Black Birders Week.
Here’s a record of my practicing Rule #3 during a recent bird walk:
Exploration Green Clear Lake City, Texas Thursday, January 28, 2021 21 birds in a 3-hour walk from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM Recorded by Jenny and Julie
Birds: - Egyptian Goose - Savannah Sparrow - Snowy Egret - Great White Egret - Cormorants - Brown Pelicans - Yellow-rumped Warblers - Ring Billed Gull - Great Blue Heron - Little Blue Herons - Mourning Doves - Bluebirds - European Starlings - Robins - Black-bellied Whistling Ducks - Ibis, large flock - Eastern Phoebe - Red-winged Blackbird - Ring-necked Ducks - Pine Siskin - Mockingbird
PRIVILEGES - Being White - Being healthy enough to be outside on my feet for 3 hours - Having enough to eat to even want to go birding - Being retired and able to go birding on a Thursday afternoon - Having a smartphone and good internet access, which provides directions, bird maps, bird identification tools, record keeping, online birding webinars - Having a car that runs well
Wandering While White
Exploration Green is a former golf course that is being converted into a green space dedicated to conservation, recreation, and flood retention. It’s located in the middle of a Houston neighborhood, surrounded by single-family homes that used to be on a fairway but now are on a nature trail.
As my sister and I made our way around the trail, we noticed lots of birds at a tall birdfeeder that was sticking up from behind a tall berm. I wanted to get a closer look, and so we stepped off-trail and started climbing.
At the top of the berm, we discovered ourselves standing in the large backyard of a private home. An older White man sat on his back patio, looking at us looking at him.
He must have watched us as we climbed into his yard, looked through binoculars toward his house, made notes in our field books, pointed our fingers, and made comments about the birds flying on and off the feeder. This is normal birder behavior.
The homeowner must be used to such intrusions, for he threw us a friendly but bored wave, and we moved on.
How many ways would this scene have been different if we changed the colors?
….If I were a Black birder instead of White, how would I have felt coming over the berm to find myself in a White man’s backyard?
….If my sister and I were two Black women birders, would the man have been as friendly? What if we were two Black men birders?
….If the homeowner had been Black instead of White, would I have been surprised? Scared?
J. Drew Lanham has become one of my favorite trainers in my effort to become a better birder, a better noticer, and a better human.
For further reading about birding while black, check out Christian Cooper’s comic, “It’s a Bird.”