I had an experience this past week that really touched me. A woman, probably in her 70s, came into the store and said she wanted to buy a pair of binoculars for herself. She mentioned she’d been on a few of our free bird walks and she wanted to get into birding.
As I worked with her, showing her different makes and models with varying price points and levels of quality, she made a comment that was so painful to hear. She said that a “friend” had told her that she shouldn’t go on the bird walks because she wasn’t a “good enough birder.” As my customer shared this hurtful comment with me, she had tears in her eyes.
The unkindness of her friend was so unwarranted, and certainly not constructive or supportive of this woman’s efforts to engage in learning a new hobby — which I applaud. I shared with her words of caring, support and encouragement, along with an explanation that at some point all of us were at a beginner’s level before we became proficient in the hobby of bird watching.
Everyone’s interest in birds had a beginning point — for me it started when I was 4 or 5 years old. Most people develop this interest later in life, but whether it occurs when we are young or old, it doesn’t really matter. We should all be lifelong learners.
I can honestly say that over the 17 years we have been in business, we have helped thousands of people develop a love of wild birds and grow in their knowledge of the natural world. We have done this through our free bird walks, my weekly column and through products such as optics and field guides that help people create a connection to nature.
On a different note, this weekend, Friday the 12th through Monday the 15th, is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For all of you backyard birders, which encompasses the majority of our customers, this is an opportunity to expand your knowledge and then share that knowledge by submitting your bird observations into a national database.
For more than 20 years, birders all over the world have participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Here are a few quick statistics from last year’s count: 268,474 individuals participated and 27,270,156 total birds were counted, representing 6,942 species in 194 countries. How cool is that?
Do you want to get involved? Get started by visiting birdcount.org. On the home page there is a “How to Participate” button, which is the best place to get all of the details. As the website explains, “Participating is easy … and can be done anywhere you find birds. Simply watch birds 15 minutes or more, at least once over the four days … and tell us what you see!” You don’t have to be an expert birder to participate, and who knows, maybe this experience will create within you a greater desire to learn more. I hope you choose to participate.
A few notes on local bird activity. There is still a lone pelican splitting time between Willow Lake and Watson Lake. The three tundra swans are still at Watson Lake and the four sandhill cranes are still being seen at Willow Lake.
Bald Eagles are still being seen at Goldwater Lake — they will be leaving soon to go north, so if you are interested in seeing them you should go soon. Great horned owls are pairing up right now. For the last two weeks, I’ve had a pair duetting back and forth in my neighborhood; what a delightful sound to hear at dawn and dusk.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona — Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.