Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post: How I accidentally became a birder...

Ernie Allison lives a life of happy accidents and spends as much time as possible watching birds, whether it be out in nature or at his backyard bird feeders.

Swainson's Thrush by Robert Mortensen
I've been a bird watcher for many, many years, so when a friend recently asked me how my birding habit got started, I had to think long and hard. After a lot of memory searching and “oh! It was… no, I started before that…” I finally remembered.

The outdoors was a large part of my childhood. We didn't have a television until I was in my teens, and by then I was in the habit of spending my free time after school outside. I’d walk home and stop in the park, or play in the “woods” (a block or so plot of land covered in trees) before going home for dinner.

My parents wanted me to stay out of trouble, so I was in Boy Scouts from the time I was 12. I went on the camping trips, learned to tie knots, and tried to identify bird calls, but I don't think I was as good at it as I thought I was. The scouts gave me a love for the outdoors that almost became habit.

As I grew up, I continued to spend regular time outside. Family reunions were always camping trips; I would spend at least a weekend every summer out in the woods or hiking in the mountains. When I had children, I of course continued the tradition and tried to get them to enjoy the wilderness as much as I did.
Claire learning to be a birder, by Robert Mortensen
It wasn't until my oldest daughter asked me what birds we heard on a hiking trip that I got into birding specifically. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I started looking up the information. Identifying bird calls became a regular part of our outdoor activities. She wanted to see birds more often, so we started putting feeders in our lawn. Before I knew it, I had accumulated a nice amount of knowledge about birds just so that my daughter's questions would be satisfied. I created lists of birds native to our area for her to check off as she saw them. We put out bird feeders and planted flowers to attract as many species as possible. I planned our hikes around the birds commonly seen in certain areas.

It took for few years before someone asked me advice about bird watching “since you're such an avid birder.” That’s when I realized that I was a birder. So there’s not a specific moment that turned me into a birder, or a first experience that changed my life. It’s really a combination of how I was raised and how I like to spend my time. Raising my children the same way only helped to enforce that. Now I take my grandchildren on camping trips and hikes as often as we can.

1 comment:

  1. Great story. Thank you so much for sharing. So much more for you to look forward to!!