Monday, February 29, 2016

A Hand Up For Old Ben

A couple of days before I finally got photos of the infamous "Blue Devil", Blue Bunting, I actually saw the little bugger on three occasions, or maybe that was the day before. Whatever, on one morning Ben Basham was sitting on a bench and gave us hell as we walked by because he was hoping for the bird to show up at the water drip along the path (a fat chance) so he could take photos with his digital camera. Benton has never owned a computer. Any photos he takes are trapped forever in the camera.

Even getting your ass chewed by Ben Basham is a bit of an honor. To birders he is a little bit like ... ah ... Babe Ruth or Johnny Unitas or Bobby Orr - you get the idea. He is the one who really lifted birding into a major activity, first one with over 700 North American  birds in one year - and one of the first people to sign my bird guide, "Benton Basham ABA 881", underlined, his life count. As I said, Ben has never owned a computer. That number was racked up before daily postings of rare bird sightings - the posting that have filled the parking lot at Frontera Audubon the past month. Old Ben is the birder giant and we all know it. There is no second place. 

We moved on around the bend and settled in with three other birders. Within 15 or 20 minutes the bird showed up way back in the thicket, but moving toward us and an opening. Basham!?! I quickly, quietly doubled back up the path and fetched Ben. He had not brought his walker, but no matter, he was so excited he left his cane back at the bench, and we hobbled back to the group. People made room for the Moses. The bird fluttered into clear view, binoculars came up with soft "ooohs". Cameras clicked. Ben is old, rather deaf and he tends to talk too loud. "I can't focus! It won't focus! I don't know what's wrong!" The bird left. A frustrated Ben, now crestfallen and quiet, "It wouldn't focus, I was on the bird and it wouldn't focus." Ignoring the fact that to ask any auto-focus camera to lock onto a bird through that lace of brush and twigs was totally unrealistic. A couple of the birders, one an optics rep, figured out who Ben was and began fawning over him. He loves attention and the disappointment of his camera snafu soon passed. 

I understand he got his photo a day or two later, so now he has at least one safely locked away in his camera ... until there is a SDHC card failure. The cards ALL fail eventually, but likely Ben will die before the camera and be planted beside his tumbled down old trailer by then. 

 Take care and be well - Gunnar


Redwing said...

I think that is very cool that Ben signed your book.

Gunnar Berg said...

I think it is very cool that YOU signed the book.