Alex Ransom at n+1:
Birders are a funny bunch, mostly—at this festival, anyway—white, older-aged, and of a delightfully inefficient temperament. In general, they talk and move at a relaxed pace, and are eager to dedicate long moments of their lives to matters that many people simply whisk past. On a geology tour my mom and I took on our third day in Hays, the group revolted and made the guide turn the van around just to take pictures of a flock of turkeys. Later, about a half hour was spent on a quiet debate over whether a falcon in a far-off tree was a kestrel or a much more uncommon merlin. I listened to a man trying in vain for several minutes to describe the position of the falcon to the woman next to him: “It’s in the backmost tree, up there on the white branch. There are a lot of light branches. But no! There’s only one white branch.” Over the course of the trip, time seemed to slow down to match the geologic scale suggested by the ancient mating rituals of the prairie chickens and the landscape that surrounds them: sprawling fields of grass punctuated by chalk formations left over from Kansas’s past beneath the Cretaceous-era Western Interior Seaway.