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I should have known things would get out of hand! For years, I have taken a certain degree of pride and relish in the fact that I have been able to warp or brainwash people around me into becoming addicted to bird-watching.

I began with my kids –poor innocents– captives from an early age, forced to look when I pointed and exclaimed, “Oh, look at that pretty red bird!” It probably seemed to them that I was much more impressed by colorful avian plumage than the latest ‘trick’ the kids had learned …such as how to walk or talk or ice skate. Truth be told, I may have been! And so it became ‘a thing’ in our family.Gifts for me are never a problem — if it involves birds, you’ve got a winner…books, shirts, sculptures, paintings, china birds.

I moved on to corrupt friends and acquaintances — unsuspecting victims all. The Man In My Life’s grandchildren. The young girl across the street. Subtle at first: books on birds with lots of pictures; t-shirts with birds on them (the flashier and sparklier (is that even a word?) the better. If I’d been forming a cult, I couldn’t have managed it more effectively. It spread across the world — Gill in England, My Man’s children in Australia… friends in California. It has even become an unofficial prerequisite of sorts for any potential romantic partners coming into our family — like birds or you cannot enter!

But this past week, I got my comeuppance. And I’m not happy with it. I have earned a new nickname (as if I needed another one) : The Instigator.

It began innocently when I emailed the family (including the newest partners) that, while on the deck with Mrs. Beeton and L’il Sis’s finches (in cages), I saw a new bird close to us. Actually, I heard him first. It was a woodpecker, pecking the bejeezus  out of my deck rail in his search for tasty bugs! Part of me wanted to explain to him that he’d likely  have better luck (and a higher quality meal) if he pecked holes in the nearby tree rather than the treated wood railing. The other part of me wanted to remain quiet so I could observe him.  He was a mere two feet away from us and I was trying to remain perfectly still and nonchalant…as in, “Nothing to see here. Go about your business, bird!’.

Mrs. Beeton(the pink parakeet), however, was not helping my cause. She was watching him and eating as she did so — it’s amazing how loud the cracking of seed in a beak can sound when you want total silence! On the other hand, the woodpecker probably couldn’t hear her pecks over his own ‘boring’ through the deck rails. Man, having been subject to migraines when I was younger, my head ached just watching him.

He jumped from post to post, exhibiting remarkable agility, in his futile search for lunch. After he flew off, I was so pleased with my bird watching prowess that I went immediately to the computer to spread my joy with ‘The Fam’.

At first, they rejoiced with me.They were thrilled, as I expected. But instead of oohing and aahing over my sighting, they then took it upon themselves to view it as a ‘throw down’, a challenge if you will, to see who could come up with the best bird viewing.

The following morning, L’il Sis added a Cedar Waxwing to the list — seen while she walked to work in the middle of Toronto. Gill added swans from the river in Bristol. Then, Crazy D added A Great Blue Heron (which told me he was bike riding that day) and  some hawks. And then his Girlfriend got into the act from the east coast with the addition of gulls and geese. And so, Bird Bingo was born.

I held the lead for a day, but then Crazy D and his Girlfriend roared ahead when they began getting extra points for creativity. And to explain this I must again note Gill’s fascination with chickens…a fascination that has become an obsession within the family. You may remember Crazy D’s girlfriend, L’il Sis and I went to see a chicken film at the Hot Docs Filmfest recently. Now everything has to be translated into ‘chicken terms’. Within that context, mere woodpeckers became ‘headbanger’ chickens; gulls became ‘beach chickens’, etc. Sadly, no ‘formal chickens’ (aka Penguins) were listed. What do you think we are — idiots? We’re (well, most of us at the moment) in Ontario.

So, I don’t know quite how it happened, but I admitted defeat in our game of Bird Bingo. An ignominious defeat, it must be said. I was crushed. But it was an excellent email game while it lasted. Oh, I’m looking out the window right now. Is that a Partridge In A Pear Tree? I know, some people will do anything to win.

‘The Instigator’ is signing off…