By SMEEC Volunteer, Joy Bell
I love birding, and I am not alone out there. Many people enjoy birding; in fact, it is one of the top outdoor activities in the United States. What drew me in was the need to know and understand who I share my existence with in this mere moment in geologic time.
The desire to connect with nature is strong as it allows me to think beyond my own “stuff.” By concentrating on just one bird at a time, stress and worry about other matters disappear for a while; there is a break from that chatter and those many insignificant, unending, routine human concerns. Birding can bring out my best, most generous and expansive self!
Beyond tabulating birding species and learning how to identify them by their feathers, calls, behavior and habitat, I can tell seasonal time with birding. In my yard or out on the trails, I may encounter a winter visiting bird, keeping warm from its northern home. Or, like these days, spring avian desert drop-ins, coming down from the sky for a few days to rest up and fuel up for a continued migration to northern breeding grounds. What I love about birding is it heightens awareness of my surroundings and provides me with a grounding and reminder: I am in the Sonoran Desert, one of the most special places, and greenest deserts on Earth!
Listing bird species is fun though and it can be put to good use. As my skills have grown, I can assist on bird surveys or counts to obtain data for larger conservation understandings, and this provides me a higher calling. In my life, where I am able to meet my basic needs, a higher calling pursuit just makes me feel like an improved human being.
And I so want to improve, and want our human species to improve, in acknowledging our limitations, our invasive tendencies, our spread, our numbers, our impacts. So many species of fish, frogs, mammals, reptiles and birds are in precarious positions of genetic life or death. If I can expand my appreciation through learning more about them, and perhaps spread that fascination, perhaps we can make connections on leading lives of lower impact on the planet, and at the same time, make the greatest impact to so many other species’ lives by just sharing the habitat more generously.
I invite you to try birding … you might get hooked! If not, you might find something else that gets you hooked as there is so much to look for: cactus blooms, a lizard peeking from a hole or scampering ahead on the trail, a coyote loping along in the distance or even a quiet yip that only you get to hear.
On any given day out on the trail, I promise, you will encounter something surprising! And the surprise might just be a quiet (Sonoran sky and Sonoran dry) moment’s pause wrapped in Palo Verde shade.