One of the greatest things about birding is the people we meet and the friends we make along the way. Birding creates a bond and a closeness with people like no other pursuit I know of. My words find it difficult to express the wonderful memoriesof friends and family that I have of the days afield while doing what I have love the most.
But once in a very great while there are those times, not very often mind you, that I do enjoy a trek into the woods and fields unaccompanied and alone.
These occasions are almost never planned and do not ensue very often. They usually come about by chance that I find myself alone with my binoculars pursuing a Peregrine Falcon through its aeronautical maneuvers over the Meadowlands or walking the woods listening for a Wood Thrush. It happens as a blissful accident that I find a last minute free moment that allows me to venture out to a favorite birding spot.
Sometimes it happens when a friend has a last minute change of plans that leaves me unaided to visit with the local birds, and other times it may just be that I arrive early for an event and discover a woodlot of Warblers contesting about high in the Oaks that I begin my lone quest into nature for what may be just be a short social call with my feathered friends.
As limited as my stay may be something special seems to happen when I am silent and only the sounds of the wind through the leaves and the calls of the birds drift through the air. I begin to remember why I truly love the birds.
My sequestered walks are usually leisurely and not hurried. My slow pace may bring a tiny brave Chickadee close by as it hangs upside down for a little morsel of food or a Red-tailed Hawk as it hunts for its morning meal. No matter what bird I see I can appreciate it for the first time all over again , my solitude allows me the luxury of taking the time to look at all the birds no matter how common or rare in the way I did when walks in the woods were always new and ever exhilarating.
I am soon reminded why I became enthralled with nature and birding in the first place. I can be totally amazed by a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and be in awe of a Grackle, even a Common one with no need to express it to a colleague or look past it for an allegedly more exciting species. There is no burden to make a positive ID or find the rare reported bird from the day before. No matter what I see or what I fail to see, being in nature is really all that is needed to allow my soul the simple pleasure of adoring our birds.
Although I may be birding solo on one of these rare trips I am never truly alone . When I am surrounded by only the sounds of the woods I can quickly remember my first Barred Owl or Yellow Warbler and the people that had been kind enough to join me over these many years. The generous, more proficient birders that took the time to teach me how to enjoy the birds more, as well as the unintentional birders that accompanied me on my outings in the fields and witnessed their first Red-winged Blackbird or Cedar Waxwing, allowing me the honor of seeing the thrill in their faces and feeling their joy, the same as I had those many years ago.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember why we truly love birding in the first place and not get overwhelmed or preoccupied with all the distractions that might go along with it. Step out alone once in a while and it all may just come back to you.