“Pokemon for Adults” or “Why I got into Birding!” – a brief confession

Black Swan in New Zealand – Nikon D7000, 300mm f2.8, TC-20eIII, f5.6 – 1/1250 – ISO 250

So in addition to chasing planes and trains, I also run around shooting birds and keeping a list of the ones I’ve seen.

At first glance, I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes and clicking away in boredom, but if you give me a moment you might understand why a lot of very bright and very cool people love Birding! (in addition to a lot of bird-nerds) 😉

For me, Birding is like my little nephew playing Pokemon Go. You chase hard-to-find stuff and it’s fun!

I never took much notice of birds growing up or in my adulthood, other than a basic appreciation in zoos or if a particularly big one flew close by. I can remember actually thinking how boring it would be to go out looking for them in the woods. Years later, I found myself living in the suburbs renting a house that backs onto a small marsh. Occasionally I would notice a TON of little birds all over the place for weeks or months (the Springtime) and less at other times.

It wasn’t until one Spring day in 2013 when I spotted one that looked really different from the rest. Being a curious kinda guy who always likes trivia, I took some pictures and checked the internet. It turned out to be a woodpecker called a Northern Flicker. It was as large as a Robin, had a brownish speckled body with a grey head and a spectacular red crest on his head. I think that probably caught my eye the most.

My gateway-bird, the Northern Flicker! This is one of my first ever shots.

After I identified it, I felt a kind of nerd-pride, as if I had just won a round of bar-trivia! I decided that knowing the local birds might one day be useful or life-saving so I think I started reading bits and pieces online about Birding and slowly started to understand the appeal. The whole listing aspect triggered the competitive side of me and I wanted to start increasing my numbers.So with my Flicker under my belt, I looked backwards in my photo files for various birds I’ve photographed in my yard or on vacation in Florida. That allowed me to build my life-list right away. Then I began heading out to local parks and ultimately more exotic birding sites around the region. I probably ended that first year with about 30+ birds in all. I just didn’t have the knowledge or experience to go further, but the hook was set.

After all was said and done, I finished 2013 with about 70 species, mostly the common ones around southwestern Ontario.

All Gulled Up – Nikon D7000, 300mm f2.8, TC-20eIII, f5.6 – 1/3250 – ISO 640

In 2014, I barely improved to 74 for the year with lots of new additions to the Life-list thanks to a desert trip around Vegas and LA.

Stick it to me – Red-necked Grebe =- Nikon D7000, 300mm f2.8, TC-20eIII, f5.6 – 1/1600 – ISO 250 Toronto, Ontario

In 2015, firing on all cylinders, I managed 113 which included a road-trip to the States again.

Nikon D7000, 300mm f2.8, TC-20eIII, f5.6 – 1/1250 – ISO 400

In 2016, I buckled down by starting in January and had a 10,000 mile long road-trip through the Midwest including the Rockies and back through the Deep South, visiting a lot of famous birding sites and National Parks and Refuges. I reached 170. The life-list was up to 238.

An immature Black-chinned Hummingbird, perhaps? Nikon D7000, 200-500mm @370mm, f5.6 – 1/640 – ISO 400  Bosque Del Apache, N.M.

2017 was my best year yet. I’ll make a detailed post in the future, but the year’s total is currently around 200+, since I’m still adding birds from a European trip I took in December. The life-list grew to over 300 as well, thanks to a Springtime trip through Texas, the Mecca of North-American Birding.

So I’m very competitive in some ways, and while most birders (especially strangers) don’t brag about or even mention their life-list numbers or year-list numbers, you can bet some of them are very competitive also and are always motivated to improve. I love the numbers, and I love having a goal when I set out to enjoy nature. Birders get all the fun and benefits of hiking and exploring, but with the added thrill of the hunt!

And for those times when you actually get close to a bird and get to watch it’s behaviors for a little while, it’s a huge thrill. They are wonderful and amazing creatures.

So there’s a lot of things I love about Birding (but not getting up early or craning my necks for hours on end). As an added bonus, it’s super-relaxing and doesn’t remind me of my career in any shape or form, so it’s a great stress-relief. And if I get one or two gallery-quality images each time I go out, then it’s an amazing day! (I never get that many!). Far from being boring, it’s plugged me into the cycle of nature and how our planet operates. I’m more aware of what we’re doing to our world. I’m a bigger supporter of conservation. I’m better at photography and editing. I’m even better at bird trivia 😉

And I’m just happier whenever I see a bird, any bird, anywhere.