Let me preface this entry by sharing with you the first word that ever left my lips: “why?” While most infants manage to utter the words “mama” or “dada” before the age of one, much to my parents’ dismay (or confusion, for that matter), I only gave them a resounding “why?” A meaningless first word? I think not! Little did they know what they were in for.
You see, for me, the idea of doing something without grasping the reason behind doing so has never quite settled well. I always wanted to know why; I needed a reason, a deeper meaning. Here is where one might insist that some events and practices are simply devoid of logic and rationale. I, respectfully, disagree. At the heart of every action, every sought after experience, and certainly every passion, therein lies a deeper lure and fascination. To say this attraction is baseless merely means that it has either not been discovered or has remained within the confines of one’s subconscious.
Now what does this have to do with birds? This seems more like the ramblings of a ‘wannabe’ philosopher, I know, but this might just resonate with you. Here goes it!
I do not claim to be an exceptional or particularly experienced birder. In fact, I’m better categorized as an enthusiastic amateur. And, I hope to never quite leave this classification, for the thought of no longer being fervent about the sport just seems sad. One of the things I love most about birding is that there is always so much to learn. I hope to always be an amateur in some area. I realize that with this admission comes the possibility of losing the interest of any serious birdwatcher from the onset. If you are someone who thought they might scan this blog to see if I had any fabulous birding insight to offer, and suddenly have the urge to click on that “close” button up top, I ask you to read on for just a few more minutes before you take that oh-so-final step. Here’s why:
Whether you’ve been an avid bird watcher for years, have just recently discovered the joy of birding, or only yesterday realized that such a hobby existed and are excitedly sorting through the crisp pages of the latest edition of the Peterson guide intent on creating your life list, we all have something in common: a love for nature’s beauty and a desire to watch, and perhaps comprehend, those mysterious and awe-inspiring, winged creatures.
My quest is to compel all bird lovers to re-examine (or at least ponder for a moment) why it is that they share this fascination. What is it that draws you to observe these creatures in particular? From all of nature’s life forms, why birds? What is it about them? What emotions does bird watching trigger in you? What lies at the root of your passion? You didn’t magically wake up one morning with a set of binoculars strapped around your neck, a heightened memory containing the names of 10,000 species, their origins, and an uncontrollable urge to identify them. So, what was it that led you to this hobby?
Likely, this is something to which many of us give little thought, unless prompted for a response to the ever so frequent questions, “you’re a bird watcher? So you just, like, watch birds? Why?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve encountered quite a few people out there who just don’t get it. I’m often amused by the fact that this question is generally accompanied by a perplexed look. You know the one. Furled brow. Half smile. The one where they think you might be half kidding, but aren’t quite sure whether or not to take you seriously. Whatever the response, this is practically the only time in which you might, even mildly, consider expressing your love for birding, if only as a partial attempt at justification for what is universally considered a somewhat nerdy and, in my humble opinion, often underrated and misunderstood sport.
Yes, I said sport. Ok, so maybe it isn’t exactly a sport, but some might argue the contrary. Who is to say that the thrill of seeing a lifer doesn’t bring about the sense of accomplishment and fleeting adrenaline rush one might experience when scoring a touchdown. Serious bird watching requires the preparation and focus of a professional baseball player. And, at least for me, backyard birding has a Zen-like nature that can only be rivaled by serious yoga. It can lead to hours of peace and tranquility. I’d even go so far as to say that, for me, birding is as much a form of meditation as finding my ‘chi’ in Eagle Pose!
It is my experience that when you take a moment to consider why you do what you do, you will find a meaningful, and often powerful force driving your interest. Comprehending this force will not only enrich your future birding experiences, but it will transport you back to the core of your passion, the one that fueled your interest to begin with.
For those of you who have birded for years and are constantly present to what it is that inspires you, I commend you. I hope to always stay attuned to the thoughts and emotions that this hobby, sport, passion – whatever it might be – evokes in me. In my opinion, that is what differentiates birding from all other pastimes. That is what makes it so much more than just a hobby.
For some of us who feed birds, it is about indulging our natural desire to nurture. For those of us “listers,” it is about the challenge of seeing as many birds as we possibly can in our lifetime. For other observers, intrigue stems from a strong desire to comprehend the foreign and unknown.
Whether you are fascinated by migratory patterns, mesmerized by extravagant mating rituals, captivated by their immense beauty, or can’t help but to be wooed by their song, birds draw you in for a reason.
While I think all of these motives (and others I’ve neglected to include) play a role in our desire to observe birds, I believe there is one reason that works in conjunction with, if not supersedes, all others. At least for me it does.
Birds are different from all other creatures in one way – they fly. Flight means freedom. For humans, the concept of flying is supernatural. It is what makes a superhero. Think Batman. Wonderwoman. Even Dumbo and his feather. On some level, we watch birds with the same fascination with which we watched Batman as a child. Sure, birds aren’t out there saving the world from villains, per se, but to us they resemble life forms that possess ability beyond our own. And that is awe-inspiring.
If you simply discovered an affinity for birds and never believed there was any particular reason behind it, I urge you to delve deeper. Whether you are reconnecting with your fervency, or tuning into the depths of your passion for the first time, embrace it; allow it to take your love for birding to new heights.
Danielle & Michelle