Today I went birding for the first “real” time in 2019, meaning that I submitted an eBird checklist. Which is actually my first checklist for Rhode Island, besides an incidental recording of an American Woodcock in my backyard! Perks of living on a lake. I have barely been birding since I’ve moved here, and I really want to change that. Partly it’s because it was winter and birds were few and I can’t handle the cold, but partly it is because my knowlege of New England birds is so minimal. I’ve realized how important it is for me to learn calls; I barely recognized any today! And I should be excited about learning more than just California birds, instead of being intimidated. I just go birding by myself, what is the holdup! It is good to remember why I enjoy doing something and then let nothing else matter. If I don’t accurately count every brown-headed cowbird I encounter, I’m ok with that.
When I joined my undergraduate lab in 2017, I can’t really say I had been birding before. I immediately realized I had been missing out on a huge part of the natural world. And I realized that nature is alive in a city (Los Angeles!) in a way I naively thought it would not be.
I don’t necessarily think it’s just about the birds; there is so much patience and appreciation of nature that comes with birding. And I already considered myself a very patient person, which I think is partly why I took to birding so well. I honestly don’t mind standing for a while staring at a bush and making “ssshhhshshshh” noises waiting for a bird who will maybe show themselves.
Birding has nourished the what might be the biggest change that has happened within me these past few years: I am more present. I attribute that to birding because not only do I want to notice every bird around me when I go walking, I want to look at all the bugs, I want to search around for snakes and lizards, and I want to document every crazy mushroom I see. That perspective shift to slow down, notice everything, and care about what is around me I think is essential to being happier. This small world around me is what actually matters most, is what actually effects me on a daily basis. My friends, my family, not someone sending a hot take out into the Twitter void. And of course, the birds.
Most of my favorite birds are ones that I did not recognize at all when I first saw or heard them. The thrill of thinking “omg who is that,” taking a picture and then looking them up in Sibley, those are my favorites. Or ones I could just stand and watch for a while. I kind of love them all, but some more than most.
The ultimate: Spotted Towhee. I found this one my first time birding alone at sunrise on the hill behind Oxy, it was buzzing like crazy and I had no idea who it was. Forever my favorite.
California Scrub Jay. I did not know you could miss a bird until I did.
Today’s new bird for me: Brown Creeper