A photo of Ken Burgener's sleeping bag.
“If you guys write a book, what are you going name it?”
“I dunno. Bird Year?”
“No... call it The Year I Met Ken Burgener. Here, make sure you remember how to spell my last name- B- U-R-G-E-N-E-R. Got it?”
Ken Burgener, his wife Linda Warschauer, Ken M, Wendy and I had strolled along a boardwalk through Mahogany Hammock, a lush forest in the heart of the Everglades. Ken B brimmed with humor and off-the-wall ideas. I chuckled at another of his jokes. All the laughing erupting from our party must have scared every Flycatcher and Parula from far away.
“Hey Linda,” said Ken B. “You’re a beginning birder- have you seen an American Bittern?”
“Lots” she said.
“Now Malkolm, have you seen an American Bittern?”
“Nope. But I’ve been looking in the wrong direction twice when a supposed American Bittern has flown past.”
I marvelled at the wonders of social networking. Our friend Rachel Shephard had introduced us to Jim Meyers, who had arranged our presention on Cape Canaveral. Jim had gotten us in touch with Ken and Linda. Along with humour and fresh fruit, they had put us in touch with more of their friends: Ann Wiley and Holly and Jason Andreotta. Ann Wiley in Fort Lauderdale took us birding by bicycle while Holly and Jason had cooked up the best meal we’d had in ages. And Ann, Jason and Holly had been brainstorming about more friends to stay with further up the Florida coastline. Anyway, my goal in this blog was to write about something other than cycling, birding, camping, eating or the problems facing the planet. Something happy. Speaking of happiness- back to Ken Burgener.
“So I took a personality test. The psychologist said I was unbalalanced. He said people have happiness and sadness quotients- balancing each other out. But I’m unbalanced, I have too high of a happiness quotient.
Ken and Linda kept re-appearing along our way. After we stayed with them in south-western Florida they visited us on Sanibel Island, in the Everglades, then again at Ann Wiley’s house. And as usual Ken Burgener brought a batch of new jokes.
“So me and a bunch of nerd birders are sitting in a garbage dump, with our spotting scopes and our binoculars. And we’re looking at the masses of gulls feeding all over the piles of smelly junk. Twenty of us squinting through scopes, trying to find the rare Iceland Gull that showed up at this dump. Then some guy drives by and yells at us, “Get a life!” He was probably right.”
Later that evening Ken pulled out a DVD of footage he’d filmed of us in the Everglades. The film starred Ken and Linda and in very small print “also three nerdy birders/bikers” It was six minutes of hilarity, videos of us doing wierd stuff and half second flashes of an American Bittern. In the very last scene the film showed a nice clear view of the bittern.
“Have you seen one of those?” asked Ken Burgener
“Actually yes. On our last day in the Everglades.”
“Well have you seen one of these?” asked Ken, pulling out a photo of a long-tailed black bird with an enormously round bill. It was the 20th time that evening that he’d pulled out the photo of the Smooth-billed Ani.
“Going to have to work on that one!”