Several weeks ago, after a long period of thoughtful reflection about what truly makes a birder a birder, I determined there are three universal truths of birding – enjoyment, deliberate intention and education. But what makes each of these truths so central to being a birder? Today, we explore the simplest of the truths, the idea of enjoyment as critical to birding.
Enjoyment, in its essence, means deriving happiness from something. For birders, that means seeing birds brings us happiness. But it is more than just simple happiness – birds bring us great joy, whether it is a new lifer to add to our life list, a new yard bird visiting a feeder, or a favorite species returning from its seasonal migration. To birders, all birds bring joy, not just the new, unusual, rare or exotic species. We enjoy the simple birds we’ve seen a hundred or thousand times before, as well as those that are new to our eyes, each with notable happiness. We smile at the return of resident nesting birds, feel joy when a hummingbird hovers at a feeder, grin when we watch jays squabbling over food and beam when we see a favorite flock soaring high in the skies.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all birds are equal in terms of the happiness they bring us at any one time. A bird we are more familiar with, that we’ve seen many times, may still bring us a smile as we see it fly by, though that smile might be short-lived depending on what else is going on in our day and what distractions put the bird out of our mind. A rare bird or a new lifer, however, may make us smile more broadly and relive that first moment of spotting the species over and over.
The key, however, is that all birds bring happiness to our lives at least in some small way. We might be doing anything else – household chores, shuffling paperwork, walking through a parking lot or any of a hundred daily tasks, yet we notice and enjoy birds. They brighten our life, help dispel a bad mood and remind us of the simple pleasures of life.
Of course, some birds, under certain circumstances, may not initially be as joyful to see. It can be difficult to watch an invasive species take over a food source or nest, however, but if we really consider the ingenuity and adaptability of the species, we can find some happiness in its actions, as well as the opportunity to see a bird we might not see but for the fact that it has spread to new areas. It can also be difficult to watch a raptor prey on a favorite species of songbird, we we can find happiness in the power and grace of the hawk and knowing that it is the cycle of nature that helps it find a needed meal. As we learn more about birds and birding, we learn to see the beauty and find good in all birds, even those that may be more difficult to enjoy at times.
It is remembering to enjoy birds that can reconnect us with what it means to be a birder and why we like birding, and that is why enjoyment is a universal truth of birding.
Stay tuned for more discussion of birding’s universal truths,
including how to incorporate each of those truths to your personal birding!