Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why Bird?

Why bird, indeed? What possesses anyone to engage in this pastime? Why do some start and then lose interest? Why do some become fascinated when very young but others much later in life?

It is the opinion of this writer that we are all born observers. Anyone who has children can verify this; just mess up and your child will be sure to let you know that is what you’ve done. In fact, we come out of the womb keen observers. Yes, our eyes are not fully developed, but we use our other senses to full advantage. So it is with birders.

Birders are special people who love to make observations. Probably we begin birding because some particular bird caught our eye. It may have been a brilliant flash of color or just a movement in an otherwise still setting. Or, maybe, it was a sound or call, pleasant or not. Whatever the occurrence might have been we acted upon it with a curiosity that was deep inside.

Some birders are convivial. There is a community associated with the activity of birding. Many birders, while happy to get into the field alone, would be much happier to bird with a friend or group. There is something satisfying about sharing a good sighting or debating one. Often it is that we end our outings with “well, the best bird of the day was….”

Some birders are competitive. It is a game or sport to these, and the game is called one-upmanship. I used to have a good natured competition with a friend in the form of a life list. We would periodically call each other to brag on how many species were on our list.
I have since conceded to my friend. To this day it is fine with me that he has those bragging rights. After I found more than 300 species on my list, I simply stopped counting. After all, once anyone can attest to having correctly identified 300 species, I figure one can claim a certain degree of expertise and credibility. But the serious competitors are the ones who travel, sometimes great distances, to see who can id the most species in a year. These people are committed—or should be. For the life of me, I don’t understand it. Perhaps, it is because I don’t have the time and resources to commit to it. But there it is, and I’ll leave it up to those that want to do so.

Yet, the real question, at least to me, is why not bird? Birding has brought me great joy, a circle of friends, and a profound appreciation for the world in which I live. One can not escape noticing the beauty of the environment nor overlook the complexity and balance of nature. One becomes more aware of the need for responsible stewardship, placed in our hands, when we come face to face with our disturbance to that balance. Indeed, bird.


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