Newbie’s Take: Birders Are Friendly, Curious, and Interesting

Today’s guest post was written by Krissie Lynch, a relatively new birder from Ravenna, Ohio. She talks about one of the reasons she might just get stuck on this thing called birding.

How many people can say they saw Kirtland’s Warbler on their very first birding trip?

Kirtland's Warbler  (© Laura Kammermeier)

This is THE Kirtland’s Warbler mentioned in this post (© Laura Kammermeier)

Well, I can. Four years ago I attended the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS) in Lakeside, OH. A friend dragged me along and I didn’t mind the diversion, so I went, with not many expectations other than to watch this group of bird watchers as if eyeing goldies in a fishbowl.

Wouldn’t you know, a Kirtland’s Warbler showed up at East Harbor State Park, a sighting that is still being talked about today. And though I was looking at one of the rarest warblers in all of North America, I didn’t know what I was seeing. The significance of being able to get a good, long look at this endangered yellow and blue-gray bird flitting around in a scrubby bush was lost on me.

Krissie with Spotting Scope

I enjoyed seeing the bird, but what I enjoyed as much, if not more, were the reactions of the people around me. Cameras were cocked, sketchpads pulled out and ooh’s and aah’s and even a few tears abounded. I was transfixed.

I love passion. And now having attended a second MBS, I know that this event and others like it draws the kind of people I like. Birders are often described as friendly people. Well, this is true, but there are a lot of friendly people. Some of my fellow Ohioans are awfully friendly, but that doesn’t make them fun. Here in the Land of the Lawn, many folks regularly spend an entire weekend day on their riding mowers. If someone ever wanted me to spend my Saturdays on one of those things, they’d have to give me roll bars and a five-point harness because I’d be asleep within five minutes.

Compare that to someone who just got back from Ecuador, with stories and photos of glistening metallic-colored hummingbirds; or someone camping out to record the sounds of birds and nature; or the person befriending local fisherman in order to organize pelagic trips on freshwater lake.

Lewis' Woodpecker

Birders are friendly while they are exploring, being curious, being interesting. They exude a sense of wonder and excitement at the world around them. And what is truly neat is that even with all that natural history knowledge floating around at Lakeside, the sense of wonder did not diminish. I walked the famous Magee Marsh boardwalk and estuary trail with bloggers, world-traveling guides and best-selling field-guide authors, all who seemed delighted to see fairly common birds that migrate through the area, such as Philadelphia Vireo, Ovenbird and Green and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Now I know they have seen hundreds of other species in much more exotic places and wish to see ever more, but I know they are not just humoring me, the beginner, when I hear them exclaim, “That’s a beautiful bird!”

Charles Morgan, the British author, said, “As knowledge increases, wonder deepens.”  I don’t think this is true for all folks so I do not take this gift lightly when I meet people who feel it. When passion, wonder and knowledge collide, magic happens.

Besides, any group that can teach me a cool word like “pelagic” is good by me.


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