As Spring has sprung and my ski season is drawing to a close I look to some of my other favorite activities to fill the void. As a long time birder and awareness teacher I have finally realized where the two intersect. I have to admit I am embarrassed that it took me this long but in my defense when I watch my birds I really don’t do a lot of thinking. I finding watching order come out of the chaos of their movements meditative. I am not looking to make any great synergistic connections as I do in so much of the rest of my life. The connection came to me in the more cerebral activity of trying to identify a new bird that has made its way to my back yard. The moment I saw it I was yanked from my usual bird watching revery to run to my computer and look it up on Whatbird.com . I was immediately humbled by the fact that I had not been the least bit aware of most of the key identifying factors even though I was able to recognize it as a new species. I stumbled through what I thought I remembered about the bird but came up with nothing that resembled the little darling that had visited my bird feeder. Frustrated that I would not be able to log her into my Ebird.org observations I vowed to to be more aware should she choose to bless me with another fly by. It was at this point that I realized that this was a great lesson to build on and one to share with others. Birding is a simple tool to build awareness as it allows us to tune into the world around us at many levels. At its most basic level it is perfect for helping children to begin being more aware. At its most complex it would challenge a master.
If you would like to begin using birding as a tool to build your awareness purchasing a bird bath and feeder will guarantee visitors for you to practice on (my favorite store is Wild Birds Unlimited). A simple walk through the woods will suffice as well. Start by paying attention to how many different kinds of birds you see or hear, then you can move on to identifying their different qualities. The sounds they make and the habitat they occupy are the hardest for me so I tend to focus on visual characteristics. Typically you can see what you need to with the naked I but I do love my binoculars. It brings the birds up close and personal and allows me to look even closer at their individual characteristics.
Start by being aware of the general characteristics you will need to identify the bird. This is fun because with your computer or a decent bird book you can be rewarded with a species name and all sorts of wonderful accompanying information about their lives. The key characteristics are The Color, The Color Pattern, The Body Size, The Body Shape, The Bill Shape, The Bill Length, The Wing Shape and The Tail Shape. There are many other attributes to be aware of as your skills develop but have fun starting here and let me know how it goes. As in every other aspect of your life, your awareness will be rewarded.
For more information about building awareness feel free to e-mail me or visit my associate Kimm Viebrock at Soaring Mountain Enterprises.