Birding Without Borders

Day 164: All in the Details

Reflections on leaving Norway

June 13, 2015, Istanbul, Turkey — A few minutes before Bjorn dropped me at the central station in Oslo today, so I could take the bullet train to the airport and fly to Turkey, we were wandering around a massive, leafy cemetery within the city’s downtown district. Across the bay were the Kon-Tiki Museum, the Viking Museum, and the Fram Museum, all of which I visited last year on an entirely different trip. The Oslo Opera House, a fantastic construction whose roof slopes to the water so people can walk on top of it, faced about a hundred sailboats in some kind of regatta on the Oslofjord.

In the cemetery, Bjorn and I looked for nutcrackers but didn’t expect to see one (they sometimes congregate here in late summer to eat seed cones); instead, I snapped photos of Fieldfares backdropped by tombstones. Some plots were recent, with flowers planted neatly in front, while others grew over in weeds. Bjorn stopped for a minute to read the inscription on one (in Norwegian, of course), and said that it was a biologist who passed away in her 40s. He didn’t know her. In the distance, a Lesser Whitethroat sang its song.

Just before reaching the cemetery, we spent a few minutes at a site which used to be Norway’s biggest airport. The whole shebang got moved a few years ago outside of town (hence the bullet train connection) and the airfields were converted to a new neighborhood. Shiny apartment blocks now sit next to an old hangar. This morning, while scanning for buzzards, I spotted a couple of distant skydivers and Bjorn told me a story about one whose parachute disastrously deployed at the door of the plane. Next to the hangar is a new arena where the Foo Fighters played a concert a couple of days ago—that was before their lead singer, Dave Grohl, went to another concert in Sweden, fell off the stage there, broke his leg, played for 15 more minutes, and was carried away.

Birding takes you to some weird places. This evening I am writing this at 33,000 feet on my way to Istanbul, where I’ll connect to Adana, in southern Turkey, in the deep part of the night. Never heard of Adana? It’s Turkey’s fourth-largest city. When I checked in for the flight, the guy at the desk asked why I was going there. “Birdwatching,” I said, and he nodded with an expression suggesting, if not total comprehension, then at least an understanding. Birding is a specific answer to an open question. Will it still be there? Will we get lucky? Will we find it?

New birds today: 19

Year list: 2885

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