LIFE LESSONS FROM BIRDING
Creature Companions|April 2021
My wife, Sara, and I started birding just over six years ago while in our midthirties. Jumping in wholeheartedly, the hobby became intertwined in our daily routines within the first year.
Adam Wilson

Constantly watching and listening for birds is certainly an unintended side-effect. Planning vacations around birds we’ve never seen or dropping day-plans to chase (twitch) after a rarity reported within driving distance are two other examples.

If you aren’t a birder, I don’t intend to scare you. You can choose to make birding as casual or intense as you like. Some days I find my connection with birding peaceful and calming. However, looking for a specific bird or rarity brings out different emotions.

Excitement. Anxiety. Elation of a bird found. Or, the anguish of a missed bird.

Birding teaches more than bird knowledge. It helps hone skills you already possess or instill new ones through experiences. Here are a few examples of things we have learned – or relearned, through birding.

PATIENCE

In May 2017, we attended the Biggest Week in American Birding, a multiday festival in Northwest Ohio celebrating the amazing diversity of migrating species that pass through the region. Closeup views of vibrant warblers are one of the main highlights.

This festival attracts people from all over the world. Hundreds of birders in the area with alert senses and quality gear often leads to rarities being found. A few days into the festival, a LeConte’s Sparrow was reported along a small lake. This would be a “lifer” for us – the first time seeing a bird species. This bird shows up in Ohio every year, bur are very secretive birds.

Upon arriving, we found approximately 25 birders intensely watching an area of tall grasses and sticks at the water’s edge. We took our place among the group and joined in the waiting.

After 90 minutes and no bird, we decided to leave to find other birds. Less than five minutes after we left, the LeConte’s Sparrow made an appearance. We quickly turned around and committed to seeing this sparrow.

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