Why I don’t bird competitively: am I a non-traditional birder?

Steller’s Jay

I am not a competitive person in the traditional sense. I never have been. In fact, I once played on a sports team for a few years that won once every season at best. To be honest, I didn’t really mind, I was only playing for fun (looking back, maybe that was the problem?). When I stopped playing music competitively, I started enjoying it even more. My teachers could never understand why I didn’t want to compete, but I just wanted to play. I’m either missing a gene or I just know how to appreciate things without needing someone to tell me I am “the best”. Must be the same reason I don’t bird competitively or even aim to see “X” number of species in a year…

Dark-eyed Junco

There is something about driving two hours to see a bird just to add it to a list that rubs me the wrong way. For me, birding is a special personal quiet time I spend surrounded by nature. I find it calms my mind and spirit, and it brings me a sense of peace. The world is so loud to me sometimes that I relish the quiet. I recently watched A Birder’s Guide to Everything and the main character says there are three kinds of birders: feeder fillers, listers and watchers. I don’t think I’m any of those.

Anna’s Hummingbird

What I love about birding is that it gets me outdoors and provides a great opportunity to learn something new. I get so excited when I see a new bird I haven’t learned yet, but I get equally excited to see ones I now know and can identify! Learning something new must be great for my brain and it likewise gives me a great feeling of accomplishment when I finally work out what bird I am looking at.

Call me a non-traditional or not serious birder, but I don’t aim to tick every species off my list or plan to embark on a Big Year anytime soon. To me, these things practically make birding a commercial venture, which to me, completely takes away from the experience.

I am not saying there is something wrong with being a list-fulfiller, we just have different styles. I’m just choosing not to make a special trip to see “rare bird Y” two hours away from me, but instead to enjoy and observe what is around me already wherever I happen to be.

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Anna’s Hummingbird

So I guess I am more of an accidental birder. I don’t always go seeking them out, I just like to observe what I see where I already am. I don’t even own binoculars. I’m sure many other birders would be aghast to hear that, but I enjoy my simple style of peaceful, modest and green bird-watching and that’s all that really matters.

I’d like to encourage you to embrace the idea of green or backyard birding in whatever way works for you. Especially if you are more serious about birding than I am. Take a look around your neighbourhood and you will find more life than you may have thought possible! Put down your smartphone and open your eyes; beauty can be found all around you if you just look for it.