Brentwood Golf Course, Keene, NH

I don’t do golf. Some years ago when we were living in Randolph, MA, Chris took me to his favorite local driving range, gave me his driver and a bucket of balls, and showed me (or failed to show me) how to hit a good straight drive. I guess his advice was sound, although I can’t really say for sure since I never actually hit any of those balls. Instead, I spent a good deal of time swinging, swinging, and swinging again while that first ball remained implacably there on the driving green. “Keep your eye on the ball!” Chris exhorted. “I am keeping my eye on the ball,” I exclaimed, exasperated. “It’s real damn easy to keep my eye on the ball since it isn’t going anywhere!”

Needless to say, Chris ended up hitting two buckets of balls that night–his and mine–and I’ve never attempted golf ever since. Golf is one of those sports that I simply don’t get. Whereas Chris and his family can watch televised golf tournaments all day every day, watching golf on TV is, in my mind, akin to watching televised paint dry. Although Chris has repeatedly sung the praises of the gentlemanly sport of golf–a sport that he claims perfectly balances mental, physical, and technological prowess–I have no desire to walk around a big grassy yard chasing a little white ball. Somehow, golf seems pointless to me. Although I know many die-hard golfers and even casual weekend duffers would beg to disagree, I fail to see how such a sport can be at all interesting much less fun.

Brentwood Golf Course, Keene, NH

Walking, on the other hand, is another story entirely. Although I don’t think I could spend all day every day watching people, even tournament professionals, walk, I certainly don’t mind spending a day much less a morning taking a good long stroll. So although I refuse to endure more informal golf lessons and grow glassy-eyed whenever I’m near a TV tuned to the Golf Channel, I don’t mind occasionally joining Chris for a round of golf…as long as I can simply walk while he plays. Although most courses don’t allow mere pedestrians on their greens–apparently this is yet another stupid rule invented to avoid litigation by accident-prone individuals–the Brentwood Golf Course here in Keene doesn’t seem to mind having a non-golfing companion (a gallery of one) tagging along while one of their members golfs. And so this morning before threatened thunderstorms descended, Chris and I walked nine holes at Brentwood, Chris carrying a bag of clubs while chasing a little white ball while I kept track of the various birds and other wild creatures both seen and heard.

Although Chris and others refer to what I do while walking golf courses as “birdwatching,” that is actually a misnomer. These days I do almost all my birding by ear; in fact, although I secretly lust for a pair of these, I no longer carry binoculars with me. Instead, I rely upon my ears to pick out different species of birds (something you too can learn to do if you listen to these CDs). Even if you can’t identify every species of bird you hear (and believe me, I can’t), simply noticing when you hear something different can clue you into the presence of something unusual or interesting. So while Chris schlepped his golf bag and chased that little white ball, I listened for clucks in an ocean of chirps, trills in an symphony of chatters. And by following the simple rule of “pay attention to that which doesn’t belong,” I found, among other things, a pair of Eastern kingbirds feeding a vociferous band of newly fledged youngsters along with 29 other species, listed here in no particular order:

    Eastern bluebird, Baltimore oriole, downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, American robin, red-eyed vireo, chipping sparrow, black-capped chickadee, red-winged blackbird, tufted titmouse, common grackle, green heron, mourning dove, Eastern phoebe, common yellowthroat, barn swallow, common flicker, turkey vulture, catbird, American crow, cedar waxwing, wood thrush, American goldfinch, warbling vireo, spotted sandpiper, killdeer, mockingbird, cowbird, and blue jay

Brentwood Golf Course, Keene, NHAlthough I didn’t see most of these birds, simply hearing them is reward enough. There’s a certain tranquility to be found in quieting oneself deeply enough to listen to a tapestry of varied birdsongs then slowly unraveling (and identifying) the various threads that weave together to create a fabric of surprising texture and complexity. Having discovered firsthand how many birds live on and around golf courses, I find myself these days listening to the sounds behind the announcers of televised tournaments: did you hear that house wren on Hole 7 or the kingfisher rattling above the water hazard on Hole 16? Maybe golfers and I have more in common than I’d care to admit: we walk the same greens and we both keep some semblance of score. Is hearing 30 species of birds over the course of a several-hour morning walk a good birding day? I’d say it’s par for the course.

    Sometime when I was not out looking and listening for birdies on the golf course, I posted three more photos to the Mirror Project. As always, enjoy!