This week’s post is written by Zara, a Drummers alumni and monthly blog correspondent. She elucidates how bird watching is more than just watching the birds go by! Her passion for this hobby inspires us all to give it a try.
Bird watching has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was just a toddler, my parents often took me to a local park where I fed the Black Capped Chickadees sunflower seeds out of my hand. I also loved watching the colorful American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals and other feeder birds that frequented my backyard. As I grew up, my love for bird watching also grew and I began to enjoy studying and learning about birds as well as just observing them. Bird watching has enriched my life in too many ways to count, and I would argue that every one, young and old, should give it a try.
If asked, most people would say that bird watching is a hobby that involves simply looking at birds. While somewhat accurate, this description barely scratches the surface of all that bird watching truly encompasses. Bird watchers don’t just look up in a tree, say, “Oh, I see a bird,” and go home. Instead, after the bird is spotted, the real challenge begins: identification. Is the bird a sparrow, a hawk or a warbler? But you can’t stop there. If it’s a sparrow, then is it a White Throated Sparrow, an American Tree Sparrow or a Fox Sparrow? Even further, is it a male or a female? Identification presents an exciting puzzle with every new bird spotted. It keeps you mentally sharp and there is nothing more satisfying than putting all the pieces together and agreeing on a species.
Another appealing aspect of bird watching is the competition it provides. Unlike sports, where the competition is between you and your opponent, the competition in bird watching exists solely within yourself. Many bird watchers keep year-long lists to record all the bird species they identify in 365 days. Every new year is a chance to beat the number of species on the previous year’s list. Even if you don’t commit to a whole year, you can keep month or even week lists. I, for example, am accumulating a life list, which currently contains around 400 species. I am constantly “competing” with myself to make it larger. While this is a great selling point for me, a highly competitive person, you might be reading this thinking, “I hate competition, this sounds horrible.” If that is the case, no worries. Bird watching can also be completely non-competitive. No one forces you to make lists, and there is never any competition between individual bird watchers.
My favorite characteristic of bird watching is that it gets you out in nature. Sure you can watch the birds in your back yard from the couch in your living room, but to truly experience birding you have to go and experience the great outdoors. As a result of being in nature, you see and experience more than just the birds you are looking for. I have seen plants and animals while bird watching that I hadn’t previously known existed. I once saw the nearly extinct Blanding’s Turtle while looking for warblers. Bird watching also helps develop a deep appreciation for nature that not many people possess. I have experienced firsthand how all aspects of nature work together and how important it is that we protect all of it.
Those are just a few of bird watching’s selling points. It is also a good source of exercise. It is amazing to learn about quirky habits and behaviors of the common birds we see every day. And birds are unbelievably beautiful. Lastly, everyone can do it. While some bird watchers travel to the far corners of the world, you can see equally as amazing birds at your local park. I have had incredible experiences, met lifelong friends and unique people, and made forever memories thanks to bird watching. I have also developed a passion that I will continue to pursue for many years to come. Everyone should give bird watching a shot.