Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Call Me A Birder

As 2012 molts into a New Year, my thoughts are on this question, "What does it mean to be a birder in the year 2013?"

Birding has changed in many ways from the early years.  Our equipment is certainly better. Travel is more accessible to more people. And we have more ways to connect with other birders and more ways to gather and share information about birds than early birders could ever have dreamed was possible. And, for all the pros and cons, technology has made everything about finding and identifying birds easier than it's ever been before. 

And we've gotten better at being birders, too. Not necessarily in terms of our skill.  In fact, I think early birders probably had us on the skill factor. Their equipment lacked so much of what ours does today that I  think they had to work harder, look longer, and study birds in a more intense way in order to figure out what they were looking at. No, I'm not talking about advancements of skill; I'm talking about sharing. I think we're better at sharing our interest in birds today. Don't you? 

Copies of  Kenn's Guia de campo a las aves de Norteamerica are being distributed to Latino outreach programs through a partnership between Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Sonoran Joint Venture, and Environment for the Americas.

Focus on Diversity conferences are now being held annually across the country to help change the face of American birding! 

And young birders clubs are popping
 up in dozens of states! 

There have been some spirited debates on what a person who watches and enjoys birds should be called in these modern times.  There are some who find the term "birdwatcher" too old and dusty to fit the times, and many prefer to be called a "birder."  I suppose if pressed I would say that I mostly think of myself as a birder.  But personally, I don't care what people call me - birder, birdwatcher, bird freak, bird lady, bird nerd, etc. I'm proud to wear any of those labels and be associated with such a wonderful thing. And I don't think we should worry about the label for what we do as much as we should think about how we represent our community when we are doing it. If we all strive to make birding seem fun and inviting to those who haven't discovered it yet, then it really doesn't matter what it's called, as long as it's viewed as something good! 

So, what does it mean to be a birder in this ever-changing world in the year 2013?  Mostly that's a question that only you can answer for yourself.  But I do know that it means you can still count on the one thing about birding that hasn't changed. 

The birds.

No matter how much the world around us changes and advances, birds will continue to grace us our world with beauty and awe.
Flamingo at Punta Morena, Galapagos Islands

The birds will continue to surprise us and 
keep us on our toes! 
A rather bizarre looking White-throated Sparrow displaying partial leucism

They will continue to remind us that if we fight for their habitat and work for their secure future, they will respond. And they will reward us with moments that make us dance with joy! 

They will bless our eyes with images that evoke powerful emotions.

They will fill our ears with all manner of music.

And they will grace our lives with moments that 
make us weep with humility.
A tiny Rufous Hummingbird defies all odds and ekes out a living 
in the midst of a northwest Ohio winter storm 

Birds will remind us to keep our chin up 
when the world gets heavy.
Chinstrap Penguin

They will remind us never to take for granted the special
qualities of the 
loved ones we see most often.

They will make us laugh out loud! 

Faces only a mother (and a birder!) could love: nestling Black-crowned Night-Herons 

And they will help us continually hone our powers of observation.
Can you find the little feathered hobbit (Northern Saw-whet Owl) in this photo? 

Birds will help us learn that there's no such thing as a no-risk
venture in life. And that every now and then it's okay to
take risks and 'Gambel' a bit! 

Gambel's Quail 

And finally, birds will bring us together and lift us above the issues that absolutely polarize us. My heart was fractured over and over during this gut-wrenching election year as I watched longtime friends square off and clash political swords. Harsh words were exchanged, and I worried that nothing would ever heal the wounds people gouged out of each other with sharply pointed words. 

But something did.  

Something lifted us above all of the ugliness and planted us side by side on common ground once again.  This feathered force for good brought out the best in people time and time again and served as a reminder to us all that it's okay to be different than our friends. That in the end, our differences make our friendships richer, more interesting and enlightening. 

I watched in awe as people who had launched bitter words back and forth only days before, now patted each other on the back and celebrated some new life bird or birding experience. And in those moments, I felt remarkably blessed to be a birder, a bird-watcher, and a bird nerd!

Birds do so much for us. They enrich our lives in so many ways.  The least we can do is give back just a little in the coming year.  When you're making your New Year's resolution, I hope you'll consider adding one or two things that will help support bird habitat.  I promise you that it will come back to you in spades.

Wishing you a New Year filled with health, happiness, and the best of birds and birding! 



  1. Well put, a beautiful post. Happy New year.

  2. Kimberly, this is the best "ode to birding" I've ever read. Beautifully written and portrayed!

  3. Thank you so much, Robert. I worked so hard at writing this post. It took me hours and hours because I really wanted to try and convey some of the most powerful positive impacts that birds have had on my life. Your very kind words about the post mean the world to me, and I am so thankful to you for giving me the opportunity to share my love of birds and birding on the BiF! blog.

    Happy New Year to you and your family and thank you for all the ways you share the best of birds and birding with so many people.

  4. Wonderful post, so beautifully expressed ... this touched my heart so. Wishing you a new year filled with joy, Kimberly!

    1. Happy New Year to you, too, Julie! Thank you for the sweet words about my message. It came straight from my heart - and that's always sort of a scary thing to put out there. Thanks for making me feel like it was an okay thing to do!

      And, thanks for all the wonderful, beautiful, inspiring messages you've shared.

  5. Fantastic post Kim! Have a wonderful new year and thanks again for all you do for birds and budding young birders.

    1. Thank you, Jeremy! I hope the New year is good to you in every possible way!

  6. Very lovely,,Thanks so much and I still think Kenn should run for President! :)

    Happy New Year

    Marie Murphy

    1. HeeHee! You can be his campaign manager, Marie!
      Thanks for taking time to leave such a nice message about my post.

      Happy New Year!


  7. I wish you a ☆ :: * Happy-New-Year * :: ☆ From Japan.!! God bless you during 2013!
    Ryoma Sakamoto.

  8. Beautiful.
    Wish you Happy and Prosperous New Year!

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  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about what it means to be a birder and, of course, the birds birders watch. Happy New Year! Paula

  11. As someone new to birding in the last year, I found this post to be a well-written description of what makings birding such an attractive pasttime. Well done. - Josh

  12. Thank you very much, Josh! I appreciate your comment very much, and I'm happy to hear that you've discovered birds and birding.