Saturday, December 09, 2006

Another Reason Why I Love Birding

Every now and then I get a nice reminder of how special it is that so many of us share this love of watching birds.

Here's a letter I got last summer but just re-read. It's from a young birder that was on one of my bird walks a few years ago. I'll let him tell the story...

Hi Bill,
I apologize for attempting to reach you through your work e-mail address, but I could not find a more personal e-mail address. My name is Alex H, you may remember me from the visit you made to the Chautauqua Institution, New York in the summer of 2002. I was the young kid who also attended the bird walk (you found me my one and only Warbling Vireo).
I wanted to follow up four years later and tell you I am still a very avid birder. I still live in Miami and am out and about all the time. I just saw my 295th bird in Florida on Monday, a Red-billed Tropicbird during a pelagic off Miami! Since I met you I have seen hundreds of new birds in Arizona, Florida, and Europe.

I wanted to thank you for enlightening me that morning about the birding community. Until then, I really didn't know too much about anything outside of my own backyard. Once I got home to Miami, I joined the local Audubon society immediately. I like to think that year I became an avid birder and you helped spark it.

Thanks again for everything.

Alex H., 17
All I'm doing is paying forward all the kindness and helpful support shown to me when I was a young bird watcher. My mentor, Pat Murphy, was a cranky ol' gal, except when it came to teaching people about birds. Then she was as tender as an angel of mercy. But if you ever tried to thank her, she turned back into her regular persona, which made us wonder if her clothes were lined with sandpaper.

Boy oh boy did she have the knowledge. And I know she was proud of me when all that knowledge began to stick in my brain to be referenced on each and every field trip. It made me want to get to a point where I was good enough to help other bird watchers, just like Pat (without the sandpaper, of course).
A couple of years ago, an emcee introduced me as a speaker at a birding festival by saying "Bill is the pied piper of birding. If you go on a bird walk with him, you'll see what this hobby of ours is so incredibly enjoyable. His enthusiasm is contagious--you can't help but get into bird watching."

I was so flattered by this intro that I got all choked up and couldn't say anything for a few minutes. I take that role very seriously and completely to heart...

Bird watchers are the nicest people on the planet. And that's a fortunate thing because it looks like it's going to be up to us to save this planet. More birders means more of a focus on conservation and preservation of birds and their habitat. That's a GOOD thing.

Let's all make it our goal to get more people--young and old--into watching birds. It will make the world an immeasurably better place.


At 12:43 AM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Bill, as you know, you are indirectly responsible for turning me into a birder.
For your readers: My husband Geoff is a freelance journalist, and he interviewed Bill for an Ohio magazine article about what you can do for birds in the winter. Bill was his usual passionate self, talking about the birds, and of course their birding tower on their house. Geoff came home a few days later with a feeder, and added on a birdbath and I got hooked. 10 feeders, native plantings and about a million field guides later, I can proudly call myself a birder.
And how cool for that young man to write to you after all these years, to thank you. Choke me up a little, too.

Thanks, Bill!

At 8:08 AM, Blogger BT3 said...

Thanks Susan! Yep, I think there's ample evidence that you are afflicted with the birding bug! Fortunately there's no cure needed.

Always appreciate your comments.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Rondeau Ric said...

I can’t think of a higher compliment than the one this young man has given you. You gave him a valuable gift that day and he can enjoy it the rest of his life.

Bill you have many good attributes and your passion for the world of birding is only the most obvious.

You have a knack for encouraging with out pushing and for instilling your passion for birds without being pompous or overbearing..

Your immersion into the world of birds, from play to work, is a bit daunting to me at times.

On the one hand I know I will never be as knowledgeable or skilled as you, which would be intimidating without your enthusiasm, humor and honest pleasure in some one else’s accomplishment.
On the other hand you inspire me to try to improve and for that I thank you.

You’re a good guy BOTB and you have earned your accolades.

Ric McArthur

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous KatDoc said...

My birding mentors are many, starting with "Lindy," the little old naturalist at Methodist church camp every summer. Although I will never attain the title of Pied Piper, I, too, in my small way, try to give back to others in appreciation for the help I have received over the years.

I find it really fun to share my knowledge with other birders. On a few walks lately, I have been the "expert" birder, and it is intimidating to try to step into the shoes of those who taught me. It makes me work even harder to be sure my ID is right or my facts are accurate. I find that in teaching something, I learn even more.

My boss' 3 young daughters are often at work, and last fall, the then 2-and-one-half year old was looking out the window when I asked her what she was doing. "Ssshhh," she said, very seriously. "Be quiet. We are looking for buh-dees."

Well, OK, I can look for birdies too. Fortunately, a mockingbird chose that moment to land nearby. Great - a large, visible, easily ID'd bird!

"Look, Aimee," I said. "There's a mockingbird. He sings a lot of songs."

Whereby she looked at me and asked, "Baa, Baa Black Sheep?"

That did it. I put up a feeder and bought beginning field guides that weekend. Now she knows "chicky-birds" (chickadees) and house finches, and she knows to pound on the window and yell at starlings. She also asks me daily for a falcon.

I am trying to finish a photo album for the girls with digiscoped pictures of common backyard and feeder birds. When I put up a peanut feeder this fall, trying for woodpeckers, the oldest noticed right away that there was something different. "It looks like a beehive turned inside out," she commented. Well, I guess it does, if you are 7.

Sharing Nature with children is a truly magical experience.


At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Brings Up the Rear said...

Scene: Birding festival, Anywhere. Pre-dawn. People groggy, fumbling with optics and coffee, milling around.
Bird walk leaders line up, among them BOTB.
Slyly, quietly, seemingly random motion resolves.
BOTB, suddenly surrounded, walks off with most of the pack. Spends the next four or five hours cheerfully and tirelessly toting heavy scope, setting it up for every last person, working hardest for the meekest, pulling birds out of the woods with iPod and sheer will.


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