When asked why he chose to live in the remote, wilds of Montana, nature writer David Quammen would traditionally reply, “the trout.” And when pressed, “the trout is a synecdoche” – a discrete, phenomenal, biological entity, but immeasurably more than that (“Synecdoche and the Trout”, Wild Thoughts from Wild Places).
In a similar manner, to birders, birds are intrinsically beautiful, compelling and valuable but they represent more than that. Birds are also “…the indicator species for a place and a life [we are] seeking” (Quammen).
Birding is Barred Owl duets reverberating within dark, old-growth Hemlock canopies.
Birding is being ensconced in marsh mist during blue-hour dawn choruses.
Birding is intensely tracking, stalking and watching – furtively enough to witness a bird on its own turf on its own terms.
Birding is a tech-geek sandbox full of portable detectors, global satellites and powerful digital maps.
Birding is constant, vicarious global itinerancy – a modern ‘Age of Discovery’- via radio-telemetry, geolocators, stable isotopes, genetics, eBird and the legends of Big Years.
Birding is liberation to shamelessly speculate and brainstorm (with a community large enough to provide both encouragement and crap-detection).
Birding is sacrifice of time, money, physical comfort and brain space without the intent or awareness of sacrifice.
Birding is standing on the shoulders of giants of yesterday and today - pioneers who have uncovered much of the avian story for us despite much worse optics.
At its best, birding is participation in a community with a term project to allow all these things to prosper and not be extinguished– the birds and all that they represent.
Looking forward to my first blogging season with Bird Canada.
Thanks for reading.