You’re A Birder, James Hetfield | Defector

You’re A Birder, James Hetfield | Defector

Dear James Hetfield from Metallica,

I was incredibly excited to hear you on the latest episode of The Metallica Report podcast (via talking about how you like to look at birds. Because I am a big fan of your work, and a big fan of looking at birds. We have so much in common.

“I love the beasts of this planet, they’re so cool. On my time off, I’m obsessed with having a cigar on the porch and I’ve got probably about six bird feeders.”

That sounds like a lovely way to spend your day. Relaxing, peaceful. And you deserve it! If I had spent the last 40 years working with Lars, I’d probably need an escape like that too. Or a crippling addiction to alcohol. But birds are better for you.

Do you know what this makes you? A birder. No, don’t give me any of those tired old arguments like But I barely know what kind of birds I’m even seeing or But I’m not even good at it. Anyone can be a birder, James Hetfield, no skill or experience required. Kenn Kaufman, the dean of American birding, defined it best, I think. “Birding is something that we do for enjoyment,” he wrote. “So, if you enjoy it, then you’re a good birder.” So I think you’re a good birder too, James Hetfield.

It’s a natural thing to suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself a birder, especially as one gets older. You learn to slow down—to go from thrash to power ballad, to put it in terms you’ll understand, James Hetfield—and take pleasure in the natural world around you, and what better representative of that world than the birds? Beautiful, colorful, clever busybodies, each with their own personalities and songs and rhythms. It’d take an icy cold heart not to be charmed. You can be a birder even without realizing you are one.

But I think you do know, James Hetfield, with your “probably about six” feeders. You bought those suckers because you love birds! Do you know Chris Thompson? No? I thought you two would have traveled in the same circles. Anyway, Chris also knows the magic of filling up a bird feeder and watching your new feathered friends flock to the buffet. Even beyond just making their daily search for sustenance a little easier, especially in the harsh grip of winter where you live in Colorado, it’s a low-lift way to passively pursue your hobby and make it even more rewarding. Let the birds come to you, James Hetfield.

Ah, but your birding isn’t entirely passive, is it, James Hetfield?

“I know all the birds that come out there and I’ve got my little app that has bird noises and I can see which one they are and I’ll pull it up and talk to ’em and all that stuff.”

Oh yeah, you’re down that rabbit hole. One day you’re just sitting on your porch, admiring a mountain bluebird, who is relatively obvious because you live in the mountains and the bird is blue. The next you’re trying to figure out what that little red and yellow guy next to him is (it’s a western tanager, James Hetfield). And before you know it, you’ve downloaded the best app in the world, Merlin Bird ID, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s Shazam for birds, basically, and it really is magic: Let it listen to any bird’s chirps and tweets and warbles, and it’ll instantly tell you what kind of bird it is. We truly live in the future.

Face facts! You’re a birder. It’s only a shame this didn’t happen to you earlier in life, because then instead of being a thrash metal pioneer, you might’ve been the godfather of … thrush metal. Eh? Eh? Get it, James Hetfield? You might’ve instead written the song “Harvester of Sparrows.” Or “Disposable Herons.” Or “The Frayed Wrens of Sanity.” Or “Master Of Puffins.” Or “The Call Of Cuckoo.” Or “The Ducks You Should Not Feed.” Or “The Jay That Never Comes.” Or “Dyers Grebe.” Or “Fade To Black-capped Chickadee.” Or “Am I Eagle?” Or “And Ibis For All.” Or “You Must Tern.” Or “Magpie Of The Beholder.” Or “St. Anhinga.” On second thought, maybe not that one.

But I’ve got lots of good ideas if you want to do a collab, James Hetfield. And congratulations on your embrace of the birding lifestyle. Birds are metal as hell.