Friday, October 14, 2005

Bird Watching or Bird Spotting

Bird Food

The more birding I do the more I sense a certain tension between "watching" (as in prolonged observation) and "spotting" (as in grab the field marks and add to life list). Binoculars, Scopes, Cameras, all lend to spotting, to loss of context. These tools narrow the field of view so much that the bird is virtually removed from its context and simply becomes a field guide representation of its species. I feel the excitement of growing my list but today as I walked around Lemoine and watched some of the common birds (Dark Eyed Juncos, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Ruby Crowned Kinglets, even Ring Billed Gulls and Mallards) I realized that with a prolonged and quiet observation questions about these birds begin to take shape. You begin to wonder about individual members of the species and their behaviors, begin to sense personalities, see what they're up to, why they've chosen the particular environment they are in, etc.

I must remember to put down the scope, camera, and even binoculars, and watch the birds in a broader field of view for a longer period of time. It is an attempt to understand the bird's world and to recognize individuals within a species. Behaviors are what the bird is all about, not field marks.

This made me think in broader terms about life itself. How much of my interaction with people and events is about "spotting" as opposed to "watching?" Do I really make an effort to enter into the full context of the world around me? Our relationships become superficial when we are content with name, job, education, basic elements of the resume, and make no attempt to understand behavior and what it is saying to us about the inner life of those we love.

This may seem a divergence from the purpose of this blog but what good is a hobby if it is only an obsession or an escape. Shouldn't our most intense interests make us better human beings, shouldn't they inform the whole of our life. Shouldn't we be better people when we return from our "watching?"


ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi I´m Chris. Greatings from Germany Bottrop !!

Nathan said...

Excellent Pictures, great work. I especially like the male mallards photograph.

Pamela Martin said...

I spent more time watching this past breeding season than I ever have before--and enjoyed it immensely. It's interesting what you say about bringing watching rather than spotting to other spheres of activity. I find it difficult to achieve the same calm stillness in human company that I do in the fields. Something to strive for, maybe.