Friday, May 25, 2007

Food for thought

Larry at the Brownstone Bird blog posted an interesting essay about common vs. rare birds. You can read it here. It got me thinking. I've found that birds I take for granted, like cardinals, are not common for people from other areas, and it always makes me look at them with new eyes. I think there is a difference between being a lister and a birder, and I want to be a birder--not just to have a bunch of checks on the checklist, but to KNOW the birds I see. This morning, not much was going on in my yard, although I did see the house wren again, so I took the time to watch an adult and a young robin "grazing" together and looking at the differences--the speckled breast, the dark cheek spot, the dark beak vs yellow beak on the robin. It gave me as much pleasure to note those differences as a new life bird would have done.

Of course, the competitive side of me wants to see more birds than anyone! Fortunately, I'm too lazy to be a chaser and go all over the world chasing birds like Phoebe Snetsinger (Birding on Borrowed Time) or the father in To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel. Both great books, by the way. I highly recommend the Snetsinger book. Another great book on chasing is The Big Year by Pete Dunne. Pete is a natural storyteller. The book is as much a travelog as a birding story and I learned a lot about bird ids reading the book.

6 comments:

John L. Trapp said...

Betsy: Nice post! You're definition of a birder is pretty close to how I would define a birdWATCHER. Birder is the "in" term these days, though I still think of it as connoting a person who is more competitive in their endeavors than a mere watcher of birds.

Betsy True said...

Thanks, John.

I know some "birders" think that "birdwatchers" are much more casual at it than "birders" are. And then, I guess the Brits call it "twitching" which sounds very whimsical to me. I sort of think that I used to be a "birdwatcher" and now am a "birder" since I do keep track of when and where I've seen birds, even though I don't spend every minute tracking down new birds.

It's great that we choose what we want to be called. I sort of go with "you can call me whatever you want, just don't call me late for dinner!"

Betsy True said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the grandaddy of chase books--Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufmann. Fantastic book! It made me want to start hitchhiking across America, not too smart these days. If you're not familiar with it, Kenn is one of today's birding icons, and when he was a teenager, he hitchhiked back and forth across America trying to set a big year record. Amazing stuff!

PA-Birder said...

Birding first and foremost should be enjoyable. However that works for a person is really all that matters. My basic definition of a birder is "A Birder is a person who identifies and studies birds in their natural habitats."

Betsy True said...

Works for me! I wasn't able to do much today no matter what it's called. Oh, well, tomorrow is another day....

Larry said...

It would be awfully difficult to compete with top listers if if I wanted to.-They travel the world and have lists in the thousands.
Fortunately, there are plent of other ways to enjoy birding.