Bird brained stories!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Birding as I climbed the rugged bluff trail in Hixon Forest yesterday, I reflected on why more Americans should take up birding. Time. You need to slow down and take time if you hope to hear or see anything. There's no other way around that fact. I'd figured this out a few years ago during my near daily bike rides on the LaCrosse River Bike Trail. If I kept going at 10-15 mph, I never saw a thing. If I stopped for a while, sat and watched, I'd see all kinds of life in those wetlands. Geese and other waterfowl. Turtles lounging on fallen trees. A Green Heron hunting.
A beaver swimming by before slapping his tail and scaring me with the noise.

Birding is even more like this. The difficulty of the trail I was taking demanded that I stop every so often to catch my breath. Usually I'd choose to stop at points where I was hearing more birdsong. Because the woods are fully leafed out, spotting birds is challenging, but I can identify more and more of them by song now. At one stop, listening across the wooded coulee, I could hear the song of my first Wood Thrush of the year. A Red-Eyed Vireo, another first this season, was singing compulsively. Once I'd reached the heights of the trail and started to move from the woods to the goat prairie, I stopped again. Transitional settings often have new things to observe. Sure enough, off in the distance I heard the distinct "drink your tea" call of the Rufous Sided Towhee, another first for the year.

I've been fortunate in my life to travel to many places around the globe; Kenya, Australia, various places in Europe and the British Isles. I hope to be able to visit many more places before I leave this earth. Something that has struck me wherever I travel is how unconcerned with time the rest of the world is. Oh, plays in London start on time, but people don't get all fussed about time in the same fashion as turbo-charged Americans seem to do. For some reason, the United States has developed this frenetic sense of time, that there's always the next place to be or the next thing to do. There's a reason the whole "voluntary simplicity" movement is such a force in this country, and it's coming from those who want to buck this need for more and faster.

Birding will help you do this. With the exception of "more" as it relates to the number of birds on your lists, you need to slow down and take your time if you hope to add more to that list. If I'd have charged up that bluff, I would never have heard those songs, or seen that flash of red that was my first Scarlet Tanager of the season. Even if I'd seen it--it's pretty hard to miss against all the green of the trees--had I not slowed down, I would have missed his partner, working on her nest nearby to bring food to the tiny peeps of the babies, unseen and barely even heard.

If you feel that your life has taken on a frantic pace, this is the perfect time to slow down, turn off your electronic entertainment and go out--slowly--into the world, binocs and field guide in hand.
If you have a camera, you can even freeze a feathered moment in time.


  • what a wonderful thought. i was just thinking about that last night in relation to my son. i need to slow down and really watch him. absorb his gorgeous babyness and really get to know who he is.

    By Blogger doris, at 9:12 AM  

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