To be a Birdwatcher

2012 January 6
by Jennifer

I have mentioned before that My Man and I have different philosophies when it comes to indoor insects. He kindly catches bugs in our house and places them outside in the grass. I kill them with sinister delight. Perhaps this comes from our upbringing. His parents are birdwatchers. Mine have been involved in a conspiracy to kill a cat.

My Man’s parents moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina a few years ago. Though Hilton Head is a popular beach vacation destination, I’m not so sure they moved there for the beach. I suspect they moved there for the birds. Every time we visit them I can be assured that we will spend some time watching, discussing and looking for birds. It is often combined with My Man’s parents other favourite hobby; biking. Binoculars in hand, we hop onto our bikes (yes, they bought us bikes to use at their place) and use the hilton head Bike Trail Map to direct us to the conservancy, the rookery, and certain parts of the shoreline to scout the specimen in their natural habitat. I’m sure they know the trails off by heart now, but they still insist on the map.

From the breakfast table in Hilton Head one morning, my mother-in-law saw a bird out in the backyard. She quickly grabbed the binoculars and took a closer look. She passed them to me so I could see. We all listened to the bird’s song and soon enough, possibilities of the exact species of the backyard bird were being traded around the table. As my mother-in-law and father-in-law tried in vain to solve this puzzle, I realized this was a tough one. I was ready to move my focus to my English muffin and discuss the plans for the day, but it became clear that they wouldn’t rest until they correctly identified the species, age and gender of this bird. Was it a juvenile Northern Rough-winged Swallow or an immature female Purple Martin? A Chuck-wills-widow or a Boat-Tailed Grackle?

Though I lean towards pastimes that have a winner-there is something to this birdwatching.

It’s such a peaceful pursuit. It takes research, patience, silence, and a deep love for nature. Bird watchers are a different breed. It is almost a personality type of its own-in the same way my sister and I will say “she is a camper” or “he is a gamer,” or how Marie and I will describe someone as a “Shane” or a “Shawna” and know exactly what that means. I’ve developed a similar character sketch for the birdwatcher–and I’m willing to bet that most birdwatchers obey traffic laws, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, wash their hands, finish the novels they start, write handwritten notes, arrive on time, buckle up, never leave wet clothes in the dryer, and remember to bring their reusable bags to the grocery store. Clearly something to aspire to.

So this year, instead of making a long list of lofty resolutions, I am only making one: In 2012 my resolution is simply to become more of a birdwatcher. To that end i’m considering a vacation where the birds are the focus, perhaps I could check out Costa Rica Focus, a birding tour operator, and see what birdwatching is like in warmer climates. Regardless though, I want to live in the present, to take in the beauty of the moment and give my full attention to what I’m doing and who I’m with. I will seek to regain the endless attention span that multitasking, multimedia and the internet have stolen from me. I want to practice contentment and awareness and not be in such a hurry all the time. I want to savor these last months as a family of two because when I blink this amazing season of my life will be over. I will seek stillness and silence and take pleasure in nature, music, and life’s simpler pleasures. I will strive to be a better listener. And this year, my success at this endeavor doesn’t necessarily involve watching any birds. Though that would be nice too.

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One Response leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012

    PleAse pardon my coming to the party late (and the random capital a). I’m so excited you’re having a baby girl. Your blog is so entertaining. I laugh out loud at your posts. Best of luck with the bird watching. It is something we should all aspire to!

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