What does it mean to be a birder? Ask anyone with binoculars, and you’re likely to get as many different answers as there are feathers on a penguin (that is to say, 80,000+). As an outlier birder myself – one who doesn’t fit established “norms” of the answer to that question – I’ve long been frustrated with the expectations that you’re only REALLY a birder if you…
- Have a certain number of species on your life list
- Have certain types of equipment, field guides, etc.
- Contribute to conservation in recognized, official ways
- Participate in tours, festivals, counts, travel or other projects
- Devote a certain amount of time, effort or money to birding
- Despise invasive birds, bullies or other “bad” species
That “must” list can go on and on, but the longer it gets the more divisive it becomes. I believe birding should be all-inclusive and nonjudgmental, both of the birds and the birders, and I truly feel there is no one, single way to be a birder – hence, Be Your Own Birder. But I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I do believe there are universal truths of birding, small insights that must apply if you are a birder, though they can – and do – apply in many diverse ways. Over and over I’ve thought of this, twisting it around in my mind like a whirling murmuration and applying my conclusions not only to my own birding, but to every birder I know. Just three key truths have emerged that fit every aspect of being a birder.
In the coming weeks, we’ll explore each of these three universal truths and learn what it really means to be a birder, to bird in your own way and to not judge, condemn or criticize anyone who birds differently than you choose to. Along this journey and through these discussions, I hope you can rediscover, embrace and expand your own identity as a birder. Let’s fly!