By Caroline Corser
Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles
Note: A condensed version of this article appeared in the October, 2001 issue of my FREE monthly e-magazine Great Lifestyles After Fifty. You can sign up for it here and begin receiving it with the next issue.
Iíve always loved birds. I love to listen to their songs and watch them soar and swoop in the sky above me, and I especially marvel at their beautiful colors and markings. Although Iíve always had this fascination for our feathered friends, you would have to call me an armchair bird watcher, since most of my watching has been done from my kitchen window and on occasional walks in the fields near my house. I have peered at them through my inexpensive binoculars and searched through my field guide whenever Iíve spotted a new bird. Iíve even subscribed to birdersí magazines and read with fascination about the adventures of others who have turned bird watching into a passionate hobby.
I just never thought I could take the time or spend the money to do that myself, although I had often talked about birding with my friend Rose. Then one day Rose invited me to go on a birding excursion with her. That day at the wildlife refuge with Rose changed my whole attitude about my passive interest in birds.
She introduced me to the world of water birds, and I thrilled to see the beautiful male ruddy duck with its baby blue bill, its lovely rusty body, and its perky turned-up tail. We tried to coax a marsh wren from the reeds by imitating its short, wispy call. (I understand that some people call that ďpishing.Ē) She showed me the gliding flight of the northern harrier as it cleared the tops of the reeds, and I marveled at the wonder and beauty of natureís creatures. By the end of that day, I was hooked.
Rose made birding seem easy as she shared her excitement and pleasure at seeing beautiful species of waterfowl and hearing the songs of tiny little birds. When she told me of fascinating trips she and her husband had taken to all parts of the U. S., Canada, and Central America, I found myself wanting to follow in her footsteps.
Rose is a wonderful example of someone who is truly dedicated to her passion. What impressed me most was her description of the gratification and peace she feels when she is birding. It was her way of refreshing herself through trying times during her husbandís illness and eventual death. I could see how losing oneself in a fully engrossing activity that one truly loves can restore a personís sense of self and help to maintain a balance in life.
Thatís when I realized that just thinking and reading about my interest was not enough. I decided that I owe it to myself to go on some birding trips and learn more about this fascinating pastime.
I wanted to start right away, so I decided to go back to the wildlife refuge by myself and practice what Rose had taught me. What a lark! This was a wetland area with an elevated drive around the ponds, so I could safely sit in my car where no one could see me talking to those birds and discussing their markings as I alternately peered through the binoculars and shuffled through the pages of the bird book.
I didnít identify as many birds as we had seen on the previous trip, but I managed a reasonable number for a rank beginner like me. I did spot one that had me scouring the book front-to-back and back-to-front. A rather fat-bottomed black bird with yellow legs and feet like a chicken was walking away from me on a spit of land in a marshy area. It turned its head only just enough for me to see a flash of red at the top of its bill, but never gave me a chance to see a full side or front view. After a painstaking search of the pages, eliminating those that donít live in California, I finally decided I had seen a black scoter, which had an orangey-red lump on its upper beak. Although the map showed that they winter along the coast of California, (This was late spring.) the book said they were ďcasualĒ inland. I didnít stop to think that they would have to cross a mountain range to get this far inland to central California.
Well, when I told Rose I had seen a scoter, dear Rose looked really concerned and said, ďOh, honey, I donít think so. Those are ocean birds. They only live on the coast.Ē Talk about feeling stupid. I suddenly felt like an awkward teenager. Needless to say, I went straight back to the bird book, and this time I found the common moorhen. We had seen it the week before, but then it was swimming in the water and looked completely different.
I guess I could have died of embarrassment and given up right then, but that could bring me all kinds of pleasure. Rose has assured me that everyone, even experienced birders, make dumb mistakes. Whatís important is that I was embarking on a new adventure
My message for anyone, at any age, is to find an activity, an interest, anything that you love to read about or watch others do, and try it out for yourself. A good way to start is to find a mentorólike Rose has been for me.
Start talking with people who do what you would like to do. Join their groups and get to know the members. Soon you will find someone who would love to show you how to take your interest to the next level. Then you can find a way to return the favor and develop a mutually rewarding relationship. Before you know it, you will have a new circle of friends and a new, gratifying dimension to your life.
Iíve already plunged in and tried a couple of other birding ventures that turned out to be fun and funny. Iíll tell you all about them in later articles.
Caroline Corser, Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles, speaks to baby boomers and seniors about filling your life with laughter and play. She can be reached at 661-871-9201 or caroline@AwesomeAging.com
Contact Caroline now to engage her as a keynote
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