When it comes to birds, I’m what you might call “challenged.” I know that Big Bird is nice, being flipped the bird is not nice, and avoiding bird poop on your head is good. I can’t tell a Blue-Breasted Kingfisher from a Trumpeter Hornbill and I only watched The Big Year because Steve Martin was in it. Yesterday, however, I upped my bird game with a visit to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. On my way inside, a precocious 10-year-old saw the camera dangling from my neck and mistook me for a birder. “A Yellow Finch is hanging out by the rain garden if you want to photograph it,” he said. “And there’s a snapping turtle inside. Don’t put your hand in the tank though.”
Oh my God, I thought. This kid knows real names of actual birds. What the heck is a finch? And why can’t I pet the turtle?
I played it cool. “Thanks,” I said. “Yeah, I figured there’d be one over there so I’ll just go take a quick shot.”
Naturally, the little yellow maniac scurried to the highest branch when he sensed my oafishness. I thought I heard him chirp “You have to earn this.”
The Audubon Center opened three summers ago. Nestled in Scioto Audubon Metro Park, it’s the first U.S. Audubon Nature Center to be built so close to the heart of a big city. Admission is free, and at least 212 bird species have been sighted there. The building itself is Green Certified and acts as a working model of sustainability and energy efficiency. It contains recycled construction materials, geothermal wells that use the earth’s temperature to provide heating and cooling, low-flow plumbing, walkways and courtyards made of permeable concrete to increase rain recharge, and an angled roof that collects and distributes rainwater. Never have I experienced a place that’s as educational and environmentally conscious as it is peaceful.
I’m coming for you, Little Finchie. One of these days, I’ll catch you off guard and take your picture. Just don’t poop on my head.