Watch the Birdies!
Have you ever watched the birds on a summer’s day? Sure, you’ve looked up at the skies and seen them darting about, but have you ever really watched them?
Bird-watching is an oft-scoffed-at hobby. We imagine skinny geeks with binoculars hanging around their necks, probably a sweater thrown casually over their shoulders, and most likely a handy Audubon guide clutched in their hands as they make their way down wooded paths.
Before you laugh too hard, though, get outdoors and give it a try. You might find yourself enjoying it far more than you ever thought.
For enthusiasts, it’s a social activity as well as an educational experience, and there’s a very precise terminology involved, I’ve learned. The actual hobby is not referred to as “bird-watching”, but is called birding. Why? The reason behind it is that there’s more involved than simply visually spotting birds. Birds are often identified by their unique calls, and a good birder — the proper term for one engaged in birding — also possesses a wealth of knowledge. Migration patterns, nesting habits, habitat and territorial behaviors are all part of the repertoire of facts a serious birder has inside his or her head.
And yes, those Audubon books are very useful.
And while “Audobon” is probably the name most closely associated with birds and birding, there are many other guidebooks available. Please note that these guides are all for birds of North America. If you live in another part of the world, you’ll want to find guide books for your specific region.
I don’t profess to be an active birder, and yes, I do joke about birding, a bit. In truth, I do enjoy bird-watching at a very personal level. I can still recount with joy the thrill of hearing several thrashers crunching through the leaves outside my back door as I sat writing one autumn afternoon. I love telling the story of “Tommy the Titmouse” who used to come flying into the kitchen each morning to enjoy breakfast with me. I can delight in talking about mourning doves, owls, woodpeckers, and other species I’ve seen, and I do have a field guide close at hand. I’ve used it on many occasions to help me identify a new bird. I also feel a bit satisfied with myself when I step outdoors, hear a bird call and can immediately tell which bird it is. There’s something that just feels good about being part of nature.
In truth, birds are a valuable part of our lives, and they do need our help. Habitats are threatened, species are disappearing, and our modern way of life has had severe consequences for our feathered friends. Please take a moment to visit the National Audobon Society and learn how you can help. Their website features many useful resources, and you can find back issues of Audobon magazine — well worth reading.
Of course, we can also sit back and laugh a bit at the adventures of devout birders, like those in
Better yet, why not take up bird-watching yourself?
This helpful article — from the National Audobon Society — encourages folks to do three things.
- Get excited
- Gear up
- Get out there
That’s really all there is to it. Of course, the more you know, the more you’ll enjoy bird-watching, but don’t let a lack of information stop you. Trust me, once you spend a little time really watching birds as they go about their day, you’ll want to know more. You’ll be eager to search out information and learn as much as you can.
Bird-watching is good for the soul, I’ve learned. It fosters feelings of bliss and peace as we sit quietly. It allows us to become part of nature, takes us out of our ordinary routines, and imbues us with a sense of wonder at the marvelous workings of the world around us.