Miss Jane Alexander, celebrated actress of stage and screen, now known to the 800 plus participants at the Midwest Birding Symposium as a fellow enthusiast. Who would have guessed? She's a birder!Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Our keynote speaker Saturday night was Miss Alexander. As Bill (Bill Thompson, III, a celebrity birder in his own right) was announcing her, he said that she agreed to come to Ohio for our little birding event only if she could come early, in order to listen to some of the other presenters, her birding idols, people like Kenn Kaufman and David Sibley. This despite the fact that she is supposed to be in rehearsals, learning 70 pages of dialogue for a Broadway play with Stockard Channing. Isn't that cool?
During her address, she told us about birding at home and abroad, with her husband or with her grandson, but mostly alone, since her schedule often forced her to cancel out on guided bird walks. She regaled us with tales of dangers she encountered while birding - black mambas and bushmaster snakes in the tropics and a homeless man with knife in Florida, leaving us with these words of wisdom: "Don't bird in Orlando!"
The next morning, my birding buds and I headed out early to get in our final bird walk, driving half an hour west of Lakeside to the incomparable Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. As we pulled in a little past 7am, to a glorious dawn, a large black car joined us in the parking lot. Two birders got out, a man and a white-haired lady. Both were wearing the requisite birding uniform and were pulling gear out of the back. Nina elbowed me: "That's Jane Alexander." I looked, then looked again. Then, frankly, I gaped. It was!
"What do we do?" What do we say?" we whispered frantically. As we walked past, we merely nodded, said, "Good morning!" and continued on our way along the dike path, heading for pond 2b where shorebirds had been reported. Miss Alexander and her companion were not far behind us. Every time we stopped to look and listen, I found myself turning and glancing back. I tried to convince myself that I was scanning the entire area for birds - after all, that singing Ruby-crowned Kinglet which was clearly in the bush ahead of me just might have slipped behind us. I should thoroughly check out the entire 360 degree field of view, shouldn't I?
In truth, I was checking to see where Miss Alexander was. And she was still there, stopping where we had stopped and checking out the birds I had just seen. So, while we weren't actually part of the same group, we were birding the same trail, and appreciating the same beauty and wonder. That is why I will always remember that day of Bald Eagles, Caspian Terns, and Snowy Egrets as the day I birded with Jane Alexander.
Do I have any photos? No. I was carrying my binoculars, my spotting scope, my BirdJam-equipped iPod and speakers set, and my field guides. I had decided to leave the camera behind. But, I like to think that even if I had it with me, I would have refrained from intruding on another birder, who was savoring a rare moment of peaceful birding in a little spot of heaven called Ohio's North Coast.