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Hawthorn Hill

March 20, 2014

Birder admits he confuses non-birding world

I often run into people who ask me what it is about watching and studying birds that birders like me find so appealing. 

I believe that I have come up with plausible answers. I always come away from those conversations convinced that I have been unconvincing. The fact is it is difficult, probably impossible, to convey to someone else the sense of excitement and pleasure that one experiences doing whatever it is that one does more or less obsessively. I admit that if I were a non-birder observing crowds of birders lined up two or three abreast scanning the horizon weighted down with expensive optical gear, I too would question their sanity. I would also assume that some of them must be well heeled or in hock since good spotting scopes and cameras are savings-account breakers. There is no accounting for the lengths people will go to fuel their obsessions. My resources preclude such expenditures. And I am glad of that.

Years ago when I started studying birds and their fascinating behaviors, I spent most of my time relying on my eyes and ears. That has not changed much at all. I still walk about with a pair of binoculars dangling from my neck. They were a Christmas gift from the family several years ago. It was a group effort so they are a much better quality than I most likely would have sprung for on my own. 

Unlike some people a bit more crazed than I am, if I can not see a bird clearly enough either with or without the binoculars then as far as I am concerned, it really is not worth the effort. It is not that I am uninterested. Rather, it seems too distant from my immediate life to be worth worrying about. Some birders will travel long distances just to catch a fleeting glimpse of a particular species. My attitude is less energetic. If our paths cross, fine, but otherwise globetrotter birding does not appeal to me. It would be nice to hang out for a while with some rarely seen species up at the Arctic Circle, but unless I find myself there for some other reason I figure that neither man nor bird will be the worse off for it. Besides, I believe that humans and birds should respect one another’s privacy. If I were a bird nesting high up in the cliffs overlooking some remote Arctic sea, I too would be put out if some scalawag scaled the cliff just to check me and mine out.

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