I tried to fit in but bird people are twitchy that way.
It was early Sunday morning and the start of the Wild Bird Safari when a khaki-clad woman leaned into me and said, "You're not a birder, are you?"
I think it was the binoculars. Everyone else had them except me. Even the pale, preternaturally smart schoolboy had them.
"I have a zoom lens," I said weakly, holding up my camera.
The group of eight — all wearing Audubon Society patches, REI gear and high-tech fanny packs — sized me up like I was a lame gazelle, just waiting to be killed off.
They turned and started walking. I shuffled in behind them, head down.
"It's a big zoom," I said under my breath.
Nearly every weekend in Laguna Beach you can do something for free that is not normal. The bird hike, sponsored by the Orange County Parks in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, is one of them.
Our safari host is volunteer Tom Eastman, a burly, no-nonsense man who clearly looks like a park ranger, with Popeye-like forearms and one of those stiff hats. He likes to clear trails as we go along and politely but firmly tells wayward hikers to stay on the trail.
But he will also suddenly stop and say things like, "Did you hear that Ash-Throated Flycatcher?"
When he points the bird out, I resist the urge to ask, "Isn't that just a sparrow?"
Everything looks pretty much like a sparrow to me — except the Blue Jay.
"It's not a Blue Jay," Eastman said, politely but firmly. "It's a Western Scrub Jay."
I think that was when I stopped talking, except when I asked about the rocks.
You see, the main point of my going on this Wild Bird Safari was to find out about the big boulders of Laguna and the Indian caves.
I wanted to hear about the Native American petroglyphs, which I was sure dotted the many caves in the area.
Turns out there aren't any, although Laguna Niguel may still have a couple to the south.
And the caves aren't, like, real caves.
"It's a great fantasy to think the caves were used by ancient people, but that's generally not the case," Eastman said.