Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Birding Is a Wonderfully Humbling Experience

Baltimore Oriole DeKorte 6.16.16

A while back I was fortunate enough to spend a beautiful summer morning birding with some folks that are not only good friends but also expert birders. Every day that we are fortunate enough to spend afield is a day that we get to learn something new, especially when the birders are as knowledgeable as the people I was blessed to be with on this special morning.

As we deliberately plotted along as birders do,watching for any measure of movement in the trees and listening for the faintest of chips, calls and songs that would give one of our feathered friends away, it was not long before the birding debates soon began.

Probably since the very first birder looked up into the skies and spotted the first flutter of a feather outdoor conferences have taken place leaning over an open field guide. These in the field impromptu meetings take place in the pouring rain and even knee deep in snow in an effort to decide what bird you might actually be looking at. On this morning the age old ritual and ceremonial meeting of birding consultations was to be repeated more than once.

A small gray bird on a nearby building was certainly a Starling until it decided to fly off and become in reality a Mockingbird. An immature Scarlet Tanager turned into an Orchard Oriole  then a while later in was surely a Yellow Warbler, surprising many and embarrassing a few.

In a way I was very relieved. Now I knew for sure that I was not the only one turning Mourning Doves into Kestrels, pigeons into Peregrines and Cowbirds into everything else. Despite years of experience, birding in all corners of the world and reputations as world class birders they were doing it too. They were just being birders like the rest of us, experiencing nature as it came and as it should be.

I thought how wonderful birding is at keeping us all humble. Despite countless books, Apps, websites and years of experience, mother nature was just making sure we didn’t get too full of ourselves. Just when we think we have it all down here come the migrating shorebirds, the Fall Warblers, the October Sparrows,  just to keep us all in line and honest.

She  reminds us that despite what we might think we know, we will always be learning about the wonders of the natural world .

Why is it that birders run to the next rare bird?  Get wet feet, cold toes and frozen fingers and can’t wait until the next time out?  Perhaps it is our longing to know more, to take in all the sunrises and sunsets, the Eagles and Sparrows, the rain and the wind, and to experience it all with everything we have and as often as we can even though we gladly recognize it is impossible to ever truly know enough to be content.

At times your Bald Eagle will be a Red-tailed Hawk , your Osprey a Herring Gull and your  Long-eared Owl just a shadow in a tree. But do not be concerned and know that it is all good and just nature’s way of always leaving you wanting more.

Regardless of how many years you have birding , how many birds you can identify, whether  you have birded Costa Rica or the coast of New Jersey, get out there and enjoy the birds. We all will all be learning more right along with you .

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