Eva Neubeck and Monique Maxwell are new to the birding game. Every bird is an adventure and comes with a story.
They are gleeful and enthusiastic storytellers. They laugh a lot. They say things like, "Omigod." They have discovered birding, and could not be more pleased.
Neubeck, who is 75, and Maxwell, 50, share a duplex near Lake Bde Maka Ska. Neubeck is retired, Maxwell a yoga instructor.
I was visiting with them by phone at the end of February's brutal weather.
They have bird feeders, visit nature centers, and will drive miles and miles to see a new bird.
"Tell him about when you were looking at the hawk and fell down," Neubeck said to Maxwell.
"Oh, gosh," said Maxwell.
She explained that she was walking her dog when she saw a new hawk.
"It was riding the wind, buoyant," she said, "the feathers on the edge of its wings like fingers playing piano. I was so lost in the bird that I fell and hit my head.
"My first thought when I stood up was, Where's the bird?" Maxwell said.
"We do have a tendency to get completely lost in the birds."
"Tell him about the herons," Neubeck said.
"Omigod," said Maxwell, "the blue herons."
Friends took Maxwell to visit the great blue heron rookery on the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis. She was thrilled, going back for second and third looks.
The women became interested in birds last fall. They had always seen birds on their walks around the lake, but never really looked at them, they said.
"We're learning to be aware," said Maxwell.
Now they have feeders and yard birds and books and binoculars and stories and plans (find the snowy owl that's hanging out at the airport).
Neubeck has a brother, Peter, long an active birder here.
"He never tried to make me a birder." she said. But when she showed interest he helped her buy binoculars and gave her a Peterson field guide. Maxwell has a Sibley book.
The pair of friends drove down Hwy. 61 this past fall to see the migrating whistling swans at Reed's Landing, and eagles near Red Wing. Maxwell made a trip to Sax-Zim, the remote bog northeast of Duluth, where she found a hawk-owl.
She went to see the Northern goshawk that spent a couple of January weeks in a Minnehaha Creek neighborhood.
"Awesome," she said.
They made three trips to St. Paul before finally seeing the mountain bluebird that had strayed from its usual western home.
They were birding at Westwood Nature Center in St. Louis Park twice during February's coldest week. They saw robins.
They track special bird sightings via e-mail and local Facebook birding pages. If one of them sees something interesting from a window of the house she texts the other, Neubeck said.
"Birding has been a perfect fit for us," she said. "We get to socialize, we're learning something new, it's a lot of fun, and you just can do it."
That's probably the best part for many of us — we can just do it.
Would they recommend birding?
"Oh, my gosh, yes," Maxwell said.
"It's such a great way to connect with people. I tell them stories and find that they're all interested in birds."
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at email@example.com.