Friday, October 17, 2008

Birding for Beginners

Posted by Terry McNichols

When my husband first became interested in birds, I rather dutifully joined in. My attention span was never as great as his and I would often sit in the car and read while he looked for tiny little brown jobbies hidden amongst the leaves of trees. I thought the point of bird watching was to collect as many species as you could for your life list and that would be it. Imagine my shock when I realized he intended to go back again and again, looking for the same little hard-to-find birds. I was tolerant, but not engaged.

Then I discovered the world of ducks. Here was something I could actually see and identify. I got myself a good pair of binoculars, a duck cheat sheet and was hooked. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of ducks in the world. Before, a duck was "just" a duck. Check out this picture of a wood duck, and try to convince me that ducks aren't beautiful creatures. And I found that I was pretty good at identifying ducks, often based on subtle differences. I started getting excited at the flap of wings overhead.

It wasn't a very big leap then, from ducks to other birds. We spent one May in Minnesota and found ourselves chasing tiny little warblers, spotting 16 or 18 different ones while there. We will drive long distances to visit a place where there might be a special woodpecker or a bird we especially love. In fact, I've even come to love the little brown jobbies.

But the most important gift that birding offers is the ability to see the world through different eyes. We notice things that we hadn't noticed before. We hear things that we hadn't heard. We revel in God's infinite creativity! We plan on spending a lot of time in these, our "later" years, getting to know the birds we ignored in the busyness of our prior lives.
(Photos: wood duck by jonathan_moreau; yellow-throated warbler by hart-cure, both shared via Flickr).

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