Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: A Life List of Birding Tales

A few weeks ago  a friend asked me If I would attend an event where I would be able to tell any story I wanted about the time I spend outdoors birding. I thought about it and then laughed.

Imagine that someone would organize an event where people would get together and actually talk about nature and birding?  After all, isn’t that what all birders do when they get together ?  Tell our stories? Yes, of course, that is what we do. Why ? Because what we love to do will always be about our life’s stories.

Our Lives are all about stories. The stories we recollect from the days when we could run full out day and night without rest to the years when things slowed down and our lives sagas became more about old friends and family.

These are the very same tales we love to recall when we have big audiences and the stories we love to remember when we are sitting on the front porch alone. They are the stories we love to pass on to our children and our grandchildren and the stories we use to remind all our old buddies about where we have been and what we have done.

They are our stories, the ones we hold deep in our hearts and save in that very special place to bring out when we need a smile or to renew our souls. And for birders the stories can sometimes mean even more.

Just as in life, birding is all about the stories too. Our stories are about the time when we saw our first Hummingbird buzz by your nose and felt the breeze from its wings on your cheek. They are stories that tell how you thought your heart was going to jump out of your chest when you watched your first Eagle soar overhead.

They are the unforgettable tales about the time a Barred Owl stared down at you from an old Pin Oak or when a Kettle of Broad-winged Hawks seemed to come out of nowhere just for you and  about the very special Cardinal that visits your feeder at the same time every day.

They are the stories that never leave you, the tales that become part of you and make you who you are and always remind you why you love nature and why we love to bird.

Our birding stories are not only about birds but they are also about the people that taught us how to love and appreciate our avian creatures of the skies. Our stories are about the how our fathers  helped us build our first birdhouses and  our best birding buddy that has passed on and left us.

The stories are about the first warm spring day when we brought our son or daughter on their first bird walk and the friend that showed us how to identify our first Savannah Sparrow or maybe even the stories of you and your grandmother filling the bird feeders together in the backyard.

Memorable birding stories are not only about successes but also about our wonderful and joyous disappointments. We love to brag about how by some boundless miracle or our great attained birding skills we saw that rare life  bird that we added to our list. But we also love to tell the tale about the time we traveled far from home only to miss that life bird by just minutes. Laughing at ourselves is also what we do..

Much like Native American cultures that carry on their heritage by storytelling birders too pass on their love of birding by their own storytelling tradition. The Raptors , Warblers and Sparrows would not mean nearly as much unless we got to tell their story to our children, friends and everyone who cares to listen to our folktales about the birds .

But we may also be in danger of losing our stories forever. Our stories will never be remembered on emails or Twitter. They will not be recalled on Facebook or text messages. They will however be remembered by the people we tell them to, face to face, with our personalities, enthusiasm and our hearts that are added to the words forever in time. Our stories will be retold, remembered and recalled by the people that loved to hear them and tell them.

The wonderful thing about birding is that there are many more stories to pass on, memories to be made and tales to be told. As long as we can get outside, walk a trail, sit on a bench or  look out a window new  stories will always be out there waiting for us. So get outside and experience the wonders of our natural world. There is nothing else like it .

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