I Am Not a Birder

I am not a birder. But birds are very important to me. The Rufous-backed Robin has returned to our large city garden here in the colonial city of Guanajuato, Central Mexico, at about 7,000 feet elevation—desert. I say “the” Robin, but it could be a series of relatives that arrive, or maybe just friends, who know to come here for the birdbath, the avocado trees, and the grapes. I’m assuming the bird has wintered farther north. The book says as far as Arizona. Which must mean it crosses the border. Risky, because of all the hawks and other predators looking for something to eat.

When the Rufous-backed Robin sings, it sounds exactly like the American Robins I grew up with in the U.S. I associate them with New England loneliness–waking up on a warm, drizzly, grey summer morning, lying in bed–thinking about my childhood, adolescence, young adult life. There is a sweet sadness in it. I do not know why. Also hope. Romantic hope, even.

I saw a picture of a nice shiny drone or two in the local Mexican newspaper today. In some big clean hanger, on the other side of the border. Apparently, there are eight or nine drones–maybe they’re called Predators–deployed along the border between Mexico and the U.S. They look like small 747’s with no engines on the wings. I don’t know how many of them are needed in order to cover the whole border with cameras. And what are they likely to see? Desperate Mexicans trying to get through the desert in unbearable heat, looking for the job that does not exist here in Mexico. The cameras probably can’t see the drugs stashed in trains, cars, trucks, cargo planes, and people’s intestines. Nor the capital that flashes back and forth between the two countries electronically. They may see a Robin or two flying along below them, crossing on a very old flight path, in the relative cool and gray of morning. They will not hear them singing, as I do.

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