Dear Red Bull,
Through the years I’ve dabbled in several dangerous and exciting recreational activities: mountain climbing, back-country skiing, yoga, Arctic slogs, hunts for cryptozoological beasts, etc. Each activity is a gateway drug to an even riskier and more adrenaline-oriented pursuit.
Last March, while trekking through the wilderness of Kupreanof Island searching for the elusive Alexander Archipelago Sasquatch (a more hairy and vicious off-shoot of the mainland population), I realized my life had grown boring. I sat on a log and tried to remember the last time I felt excitement, or anything for the matter. How could I up the ante? What could be more thrilling than thrashing around in the wilds of Southeast searching for megafauna unknown to science? Was it time for me to get beyond Bigfoot? Suddenly, the sun tore a hole in the slate-gray sky and a beam of light illuminated a branch covered in tweety birds.
The answer was simple. It was time for me to become a birder.
I almost became a birder a few years back on a spring day when a small olive-colored bird slammed into my window. After following a trail of feathers, I found the bird incoherent and quivering. I picked up a large rock to end its suffering, but something made me hesitate. Though I was sure it would die, I placed the bird in my palm, hoping it might find some comfort in the warmth of my flesh.
As I waited for it to die I became aware I was surrounded by multitudes of birds. Eagles flying at the edge of clouds, ravens croaking from the top of Sitka spruce trees, chickadees flittering through alders — but most of the birds I knew nothing of, least of all their names. I was overcome with the feeling I’d been wandering through life with my eyes shut. What else had I missed in my blindness? A soft fluttering roused me from distraction; my assumption the bird was dying was wrong. It tested its wings, hopped onto my index finger, and a few minutes later flew away. But I quickly gave up on birds as I had other things going on; this was during my hunt for the giant squid phase.
Last spring, after the incident on Kupreanof Island, I formed a birding competition with friends and family — a motley assortment of commercial fishermen, nurses, miners, writers and hunting guides. I expected it to peter out pretty quickly, but avian fever grew as new migratory bird species stopped to rest in the Mendenhall Wetlands. Soon that’s all anyone wanted to talk about. I’d identify a ruby-crown kinglet and my heart would start palpitating. Seeing a short-ear owl offered a rush similar to hanging off a mountain. Sitting amidst multitudes of swooping tree swallows felt like a combination of Christmas when I was a child and jumping out of an airplane. And the three-toed woodpecker I saw this winter on Thunder Mountain ... well, the only thing I can compare that to is the time I ate an adrenal gland at a restaurant in Cambodia. I was trying to order noodles and vegetables, but there was some sort of mix up.
To be honest, I’ve been emailing other energy drink companies trying to find sponsorship for this year’s birding league as well. No one’s written me back yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll being wearing a Red Bull or Monster birding T-shirt before too long. I hope you write back soon though, as the birds are starting to show up and Red Bull is my favorite. A flock of dark-eye juncos rested in the tree by my window a few days ago — inspiring a feeling similar to drinking a glass of vintage Chateauneuf’du’pape while surfing with great white sharks.
Yesterday, during walking East Glacier Trail with my dad, I saw my first sharp-shinned hawk of the year, inspiring a similar feeling to base jumping naked onto the Congo River and capturing the first photograph of Mahamba — a 50-foot-long living dinosaur. Imagine what a photo of me, binoculars poised, drinking a Red Bull as flock of sandhill cranes fly overhead could do for your marketing.
In conclusion, adrenaline junkie to adrenaline junkie, if free climbing El Captain or cliff-diving in Antarctica no longer does it for you, I suggest taking up birding. The birds are starting to come back to Southeast Alaska — don’t miss your opportunity to get in on the excitement, adventure and danger.
Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
Editor’s note: This piece was written as satire and does not necessarily reflect the writer’s true feelings about birding.
• Bjorn Dihle is a writer based out of Juneau. He can be reached at email@example.com.