Do you enjoy watching birds and figuring out which ones they are? How young were you when they first hit your radar? Were they objects in the sky or did you see living creatures? Did you discover them only after getting new glasses? Or learn about birds to attract the attention of a birdwatcher you fancied? How many times have you told the untruth, “Oh, yeah, I think I see it now.”
I’ve gone through so many changes of attitude and awareness of Avians (birds). In college, they were a grade in a Zoology course and an excuse to go out into the woods.
When I later lived in the Ozarks, birds became living creatures with personalities, and yes (I confess) I talked to them.
After marrying Arthur my viewfinder changed again. We started going on foreign birding trips with a guide as a small group of four or five. We’d often camp out at ecolodges or youth hostels.
If you are thinking, “oh, come on. A dove is a dove is a dove, so what’s the big deal?” Try seeing it this way:
You get off a plane, with a very small suitcase (3-4 changes of clothes, socks, boots, binoculars, camera, notebook, medicines, raingear, and snack bars). Need a bathroom? What language do these people speak? What time is it? How do you ask?
Crossing your legs while jumping around and looking distressed often works. (And I wonder how the expression “dumb tourists” came about?)
The very next day you are hiking through forests of trees you don’t recognize, feeling a different climate or elevation with each step. Being somewhere new, makes me expect to see new things–so I pay more attention.
Then.. look there’s a crow. Big deal, I’ve seen crows before. But wait there are around 40 different species of crows. They may look similar to you, but if you are in South India where crows are revered as spirits of the ancestors…you don’t shoo them away when they steal a packet of sugar from your table. And if you carry a plate of food for any distance, it’s a good idea to cover it with a large leaf or cloth–so you won’t be dive-bombed and robbed of a delicious morsel. In New Caledonia not far from New Zealand, the Crows can make tools and solve problems. Honest.
Being able to put a name on a creature, doesn’t mean we understand them. I’ve read The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman at least three times. It’s fascinating whether you are a birdwatcher or not.
On a trip to Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia that’s east of Borneo, I was completely entertained by watching the local kids watching our little group of birdwatchers! There’s a children’s picture book in those moments.
Have you thought that a bird you see in your backyard could have wintered thousands of miles from your house!