Sadly, the reason most people tell me they don’t go out on a group birding field trip is that they don’t have enough experience. As strange as it seems some folks feel they need to have some kind of special qualifications and may not be “good enough” for going outside and enjoying nature with a group of people that enjoy the outdoors the same way they do.
Now just for the record, over the years I have had the opportunity to go out in the field with many world class birders, and I have to tell you that they have made some awful mistakes misidentifying birds to the point of embarrassment. But that is what birding is: humbling to even the most experienced .
Now I am not one for labels, it just puts one in a box that tends to define who they are, which is often not very fair. I also have never been impressed with titles, they always seem to over shadow who a person really is. So when some well-meaning folks say to me I am a “real birder” I am never sure what to think.
I remember many years back when I used to spend many a summer day bass fishing, a gentleman getting into his boat telling me he was a Professional Bass Fisherman, and then promptly asking where the “hot” fishing spots were on the lake. Every title is relative I guess.
Now like anything else there are good birders and some birders that are better than most, and of course there are experienced birders and beginner birders. There are birders that compete and others that don’t. Still others travel around the world to find birds they have never seen and some that may never leave their hometown .
Others may love watching warblers and some that only hanker for the hawks. Some birders love watching birds in the backyard and others don’t even have a backyard. Some birders keep a life list and others no list at all. Some birders own a library full of field guides and some that just stick with their 40-year-old Petersons Guide.
There are some that drive a Mercedes and others that take a bus. Some birders go birding every day and others only when they can. Others birders are great at birding by ear and others don’t hear that well any longer and some use APPS and others don’t even have a computer.
One of my favorite kinds of Birders are folks that don’t think they are birders at all. They just go out and tell me about all the birds they have seen but for some reason don’t think they are birders. So what then is a Great Birder ?
This is what I have come to believe a “Great Birder” truly to be. A Great Birder is someone who deeply cares about all of nature, especially the birds. Birds are a part of their everyday lives. They see birds when driving to work, walking to the bus stop or on their way to school.
A birder understands and endorses the need to protect birds through conservation efforts. They keep a safe distance from nesting birds, never stress them by getting too close with a camera or binoculars. They help others understand the importance of our birds and pass on their passion for birding by helping new birders, children and friends appreciate and respect all of the natural world, especially the birds.
We don’t need to worry about labels or titles. It wastes our time. No need to burden ourselves with who is a great birder and who is not. While we concern ourselves with these trivial designations the barbarians are at the gate: habitat destruction, climate change and special interests are attempting to plow over all the conservation work that has been accomplished over the last 40 years.
We need all birders of all kinds to stand up and protect and defend endangered species, clean air and water. We need them to save the critical wildlife habitat that we have left and we need everyone to protect and save the many birds that are and will become endangered.
We need everyone to join together to teach others to love, respect and protect nature the way we all do or one day there may be no place or no birds left for us to enjoy no matter what kind of birders we might consider ourselves to be.