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Why I am a Birder

So, you know the HOW of what I’m doing with A Big Year in a Small Town.


Now, here’s the WHY.


When you have a lot of life behind you, there aren’t very many things that can

make you feel fresh and new. Birding, from the first moment I spotted that

Greater Yellow Legs, has done this for me. It feeds my need to seek and find

and understand the world while amassing a Life List I can be proud of – another

life goal achieved.

And then there are the birds – those beautiful birds. 


When I spot one of these magnificent creatures it never fails to make me smile,

the way their legs work (mostly backwards), their wings, their songs – I feel like

I am being let in on a secret as I sit on the side of a road, gazing in wonder while

the guy in the car behind me honks his horn impatiently, wondering what the

heck I’m up to, or a kind police officer stops to ask if I need help. “I’m just fine,

I reply, pointing at the bird I’m watching. Ain’t nature grand.”


Like I’ve said, I’m a relative newcomer to birding, and there’s so much more I

don’t know than I do. Can I tell you with certainty that I know the difference

between Sharp-shinned (aka Sharpie) vs. a Cooper’s Hawk when I see them?

No. but I can try. Birding isn’t like doing math or a puzzle (crossword or jigsaw)

when you know the right answer exists; you just have to find it. There IS a right

answer in birding, but it may elude you for a long time, sometimes the mystery of the bird wins. 

Just when I think I have all the local ducks in a row (sorry) some new aspect comes into play and I feel like a novice again. It forces me to be patient – as much as I’d like to think I’m chasing these birds, it’s more like they are allowing me to find them. I have most luck at that when I sit still and stay open to listening, watching and becoming part of the flock.


This all really started, actually, as a daily sunrise beach meditation. I wasn’t looking for birds when I set out, rather for inner peace and quiet and that moment when the sun bursts from the sea in all its fiery glory. Each morning, on my way home, I passed an amazing flock of what I thought were egrets on a salt pond. I stopped to watch them for a bit before I went to work, and, along with watching the sun rise, this soon became a habit. Amazingly, and almost immediately, I realized that egret watching was better than any medicine or meditation I had ever experienced. One day, I don’t know why, I took a closer look at the salt pond flock and I realized that the egrets were not alone. I wanted to know who their other feathered friends were. Turns out the salt pond flock included herons, ducks, gulls, greater yellow legs, dowitchers, sandpipers, the list goes on.

                                                                                             And that’s when my list started.


                                                                                             Who knew there were 22 types of gulls, 9 sparrows,

                                                                                             22 warblers and 29 sandpipers?  Not me. The variety

                                                                                             of Westerly ducks alone is astonishing, and I’m                                                                                                       finding new species every day. I realize, of course,

                                                                                             that I’m not the first to find them; still, it’s hard to

                                                                                             describe the joy of sighting a new bird for the first

                                                                                             time. Perhaps it’s impossible.

                                                                                             Maybe you just have to be there.

                                                                                             Or here.

                                                                                             Thanks for stopping by!

                                                                                             You can find more tales of my days on the birding

                                                                                             trails on my blog page :

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
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