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Hiking with Jessie, my significant other, means flushing birds by pishing so we can look at their jizz.I learned what this means the old-fashioned way in 2012, without Google, on our first hike together. I am not a birder, though I’ve learned a lot since dating one.At the University of New Mexico, Jessie researches, writes, and reads about birds.
Last summer, I spotted Jessie her first pair of American three-toed woodpeckers, this time slightly the ground on a log—a small improvement from the fowl I’d spotted in Borneo.
And in April, according to the birding site e Bird, I recorded the third black-chinned hummingbird to arrive in Albuquerque, a feat I proudly recounted at lab drinks.
Jessie gave me a pat on the back and said, “Good boyfriend.” Then she went back to looking at them. Such victories come sparingly when every bird soaring above you looks like a raven.
When you’re in love with a birder, it’s usually best to just stand back and watch them.
“I honestly don’t know how they stay on the road,” says Aaron Matins, a nonbirder dating Selina Bauernfeind, one of Jessie’s lab mates. A few years ago in Thailand, I brought a Kindle along on hikes and strapped a foldout chair to my pack.
When Jessie came upon mixed flocks (a group of birds with many species, which is very exciting), I’d settle in and get some reading done.
Those who surround her also watch birds, and they in turn surround me, throwing around lingo I don’t understand.
“I can only contribute the occasional ‘I saw a bird once,’” Vince Ortega, a nonbirding fiancée of Jessie’s former lab mate, once told me in solidarity.
On another occasion, she showed me videos of colorful birds doing bizarre, elaborate mating dances—one male in front of a creative lean-to he had built worthy of Andy Goldsworthy, decorated with purple flower petals.