Let's get something straight right off the bat - you're not going to see me tromping around through the bush, sporting a pith helmet and antique-y binoculars, reverently whispering the scientific names of rarely seen (and probably even more rarely noticed) bird species.
|Not a birder, just an old man in a pith helmet. |
He looked fun, so here he is.
At least, not often.
I wasn't always a birder --- there was a time that I thought it was for old people who split their time between playing chess/checkers in a city park, and stalking out avian species and ogling them through binoculars.
|Probably a birder... that mouth-posture is not required for birding, though.|
For some of you - that might be reminiscent of the way you think of birding, even to this day -- if so, that's unfortunate, because you are missing out on one of the coolest and most inexpensive hobbies there is to be had.
The truth is, I've been a birder since I was a kid - I just didn't know it. I loved birds - and I loved watching them in my back yard, and in the 1 acre pasture we had. I especially loved watching the crowds of birds that would appear every time we irrigated - flood irrigation would bring out bugs, and water birds from all over would flock to the neighborhood to feast, play, and squabble over territory.
I didn't even know the names of the birds that I was watching so intently --- I suppose I might have been able to identify 3-4 of the dozens of species I must have seen. I probably made up names for the ones I didn't know - which was just as fun. That interested was only magnified as time went by - as I was able to travel a little, and see different species, and hear their different songs.
On camping trips, road trips, bike trips, walks, and any other excursion into nature, I would be on the lookout for birds of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and colors -- sometimes to the annoyance of my traveling companions.
Then, there was Biology 101 at Brigham Young University, as taught by Hal Black. I'm not talking about the kind of Biology 101 with lectures on mitosis and the Krebb cycle that could put a caffeinated squirrel to sleep - Prof. Black taught the interesting stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff you always wanted to know about Biology, and were afraid that your teacher would never mention because cellular biology took up all of class time.
Among other things, Prof. Black was an aficionado of all things birds -- he loved watching them, he loved talking about them, and his excitement about the topic was contagious. Our textbooks for the class were 3 birding books. I new I was in the right place!
(side note: when I found out about the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in India -- it immediately took a prominent place on my bucket list. For those who loves birds and nature - I would highly recommend looking into it).
If you asked me to point to a time when I started telling people "I'm a birder" ... I guess I would say it was that singular biology class. After that, I started taking binoculars everywhere with me - and my backpack with all the birding books I had. I would go out to Utah Lake on Saturday mornings on the other side of the Provo Airport to look for water birds and raptors -- and there were/are a wealth of birds to be seen!
Just to give you a glimpse of some of the stuff that I'd see:
|Great Blue Heron|
|Yellow-crowned Night Heron (and... occasionally, I'd see the Black-crowned night Heron)|
And that's just part of a growing list - and it keeps growing as I travel. It's one of those hobbies that seem to be pretty international - you'll find people who are interested in it on just about every continent (maybe Antarctica would be a stretch?) -- and it's an inexpensive and enjoyable way to enjoy the outdoors!
Funny thing to me, was that when I'd tell people I was going bird watching... they'd want to come along - they'd just always been afraid of admitting they loved watching birds!
-Alan M. Taylor