Updated: Sep 3, 2020
When the binoculars came out, they laughed at first- because black bird watchers isn’t a thing right? But by the end of the trail they were ready for their next nature walk and birding adventure!
Funny story: As I was sharing my observations of the day with my Mum she chuckled and said, “I remember when you were about 5 or 6 years old and you wanted to study birds (ornithology), you were really into it for a few years”. WHAT?? I don’t even remember this!!
Crazy how after all these years, though I didn’t pursue ornithology as a career (ended up becoming an acupuncturist and a doula- as a child I also wanted to be a botanist, unaware of my Chinese ancestry and the fact that my grandmother was a midwife- but that is a story for another day), I reconnected with birds as a hobby! Unlike popular belief, I don’t feel as if I "lost myself" after becoming a mother, on the contrary, I’ve not only grown, I've found new interests and tested limits I’d otherwise previously avoided. I I feel stronger. Birding has served as an avenue to research the world around me, express my creativity and connect with others.
Ok, so let me quickly share 4 reasons why I love bird watching.
1. Calming- Where is the best place to find birds? Out in nature and 90 minutes in nature has been proven to have great effect on one's mental and emotional health. For me, nothing beats wondering a trail, following the songs of a bird all while taking in breath taking views. A new study found quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination—repetitive thought focused on negative emotions—decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment. Futurity
2. Exercises Concentration- As a new birder while birding I like to use the mantra “I am present and empty to receive”. I’ve intentionally walked into this park or on this trail to see whatever there is to see, I avoid setting the expectation of trying to find a specific bird. Being empty and present allows me to use my senses to enjoy the experience. Listening to the songs or rustling in the bushes, watching for movement in the branches all bring me one step closer to learning about the secret world of a small, sometimes large bird. Exercising concentration enables faster comprehension, improves the memory, helps in focusing on a task, job or goal- outside of birding- and therefore, achieving them more easily and efficiently. Seems like a great side effect to me!
3. Better understanding of local habitats - When you meet someone new it’s always interesting to learn where they’re from, what foods are popular where they’re from and interesting tidbits about their life and what led them to where they are now. Getting to know a person is kind of like getting to know birds. Taking a step into their habitats may it be wild or in a more modern setting allows you to see which birds are common to certain habitats, how their physical attributes allows them to thrive there, and how human impact threatens their food sources and habitats. In Florida where I live, many parks provide you with the opportunity to walk through a handful of habitats at a time such as- forested wetlands, oak hammocks, pine flatwoods, Cypress domes and swamps to name a few. Each serving as a home to a variety of species of birds.
4. Birding Community- I can’t remember the last time in my adult years that I was so warmly welcomed into a group. My official introduction to birding and birds was at the Miami Tropical Audubon Society’s Bird Day. I was in awe as I witnessed the release of a rehabilitated Red-Tail Hawk, visited booths of organizations that also work with local birds and wildlife, dissected an owl pellet, learned about the different types of feathers that can be found on a single bird and its purpose, learning the migratory paths of birds and so much more. I was hooked! Especially after meeting birder, author and educator Brian Rapoza. I later learned about a backyard birding workshop led by Brian and I didn’t want to miss out on the jewels he would share. After the event I went up to introduce myself and thankEd him, he warmly shared that there was a women's birding group that meets monthly called The Phoebes.
The thrill and calmness I experience while birding is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. The thrill is found in being on a new trail, seeing familiar or new birds, seeing them up close through my binoculars and being able to put a name with this feathered creature who may have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. A creature that has “evolved from a group of meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods. The same group that Tyrannosaurus rex belonged to, although birds evolved from small theropods, not huge ones like T. rex. The oldest bird fossils are about 150 million years old.” - Natural History Museum at South Kensington.
That's some pretty cool stuff if you ask me!
Weekend Sightings + Locations:
Lettuce Lake Regional Park
Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
Brooker Creek Preserve
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)