We spot a Svenska Birder


‘A rare species indeed. At least for us.’

Back in my heady freelancing days, I would sometimes share an office with another copywriter. He was a charming fellow who knew how to share a (very small) space without triggering any of my defense mechanisms.

For privacy reasons, I will not share a photo of Svenska Boy. (Not that I have one.) Instead, here is a photo of another charming man who can share a small space without triggering my defense mechanisms. Or not often anyway

This charming fellow-freelancer was from Sweden. So of course I called him Svenska Boy. He didn’t seem to mind. His Swedish parents visited him one time at his (er, our) office and, when I referred to him as Svenska Boy, they didn’t seem to mind either. Of course, they spoke no English, so I couldn’t really tell if they minded. They were smiling, anyway.

More smiling. This time from Dude Man, taken on Day 2 of our current birding trip

Svenska Boy moved on and up and out to Austin, Texas, where he got married and settled right in. I doubt that he’s the only one, but I’m betting Swedes aren’t exactly thick on the ground out there. I still call him Svenska Boy, but only on Instagram. He still doesn’t seem to mind.

Which brings me to the Svenska Birder. We have a Swede on our Northeast Brazil Trip, the trip I am on even as we speak. It’s our, like, 16th Big Foreign Birding Trip, and it’s the first time we’ve encountered a Swedish birder, a fact I made known when we met. He didn’t seem surprised to hear this. (Swedes are notorious for not showing surprise, so it was hard to tell if he was.) Though he did seem somewhat surprised when I referred to him as our Svenska Birder. Turns out the term “Svenska” is, shall we say, not exactly complimentary. Oh.

Nope. That’s not the Swedish Birder. It IS, however, the back of the Swedish-Chef-Speaking Birder

He was surprised indeed when, during the introductions, another member of our group started talking to him in a “Swedish” accent and mentioned that the only Swedish he knew he learned from the Swedish Chef on The Muppets. Oh.

Incidentally, Swedish-Chef-Accented Guy turns out to be one of those birders who brags about how many birds he’s seen. How long his “life list” is, and so on and boringly so forth. By noon on Day One of our trip he’d told us that when he hits 3400 birds (he’s on 3397) he’s going to hold up a sign to that effect and take a group picture. Little does he know that Svenska Birder had confided in Dude Man and me that his list approaches 9000. I can hardly wait till he finds this out. With any luck, it will be after the group picture.

Our group not in a group photo, but on the hunt for some bird or other. It was yesterday, it was hot. That much I can tell you

See, Svenska Birder (I’ll continue to call him that since I never use real names and also because I doubt he’ll ever read this) is quiet and self-contained. He most certainly doesn’t brag. He keeps himself to himself, as they say. Which is a trait I associate with other Swedes I’ve known. (And I’ve known many. My mother is 100% Swedish, and so’s her whole side of our rather large family.)

Speaking of families, here’s a hummingbird nest. How’s that for a segue?

His English is very good — much better than my Swedish, at any rate. He did tell me (again, he didn’t brag about or even volunteer this information till I’d asked) that he’d gone on more than 150 birding trips, including American ones to Alaska (beautiful scenery, not so many new birds), Hawaii (too many introduced species) and to what he called “The Great Seas.” Out of respect for his avian accomplishments, I did not laugh, or even go “heh heh heh” like my Swedish Grampa used to do.

I do hear him muttering in Swedish under his breath quite often. He ends sentences with “yup yup yup yup yup,” a mannerism I’ve heard my mother use. And he exhibits a bunch of undefinable “tells” that growing up around Petersons like Aunt Nellie and Uncle Ed and Cousin Vic, and Carlsons like Aunt Florence, Aunt Emily and various and sundry others would attune one to.

See you later, somewhere down the birding road

Good old Svenska Birder. He’s making me feel right at home. He’s a vegetarian, or I’d ask him how he likes his lutefisk.

Back to birding. And, next week, back to blogging — if and when the internet holds out.

Tamandare, Brazil. January 2024


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