Good question. For those of you who I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting, please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a professional writer and second-generation obsessed birder, and currently fully engaged in raising the third. I started birding when I was eight or nine, at the heels of my mom, who became hooked after a family trip to Florida’s Everglades. I don’t know when I developed the ability to ID birds in the field, to really differentiate one species from another, but I can’t remember a time when a bird was just a bird; now it’s as natural as distinguishing faces in a crowd. Not that I’m always right—far from it—but to just call something a bird and leave it at that is as alien to me as referring to my family and friends simply as human beings.
Since that fateful trip, I’ve birded on four continents and two oceans. I’ve retraced Darwin’s footsteps and watched the finches that inspired perhaps the greatest contribution to natural science in that field’s long and storied history. I’ve seen the great spectacle of avian life in all its pageantry and drama. And I’ve been able to share it with those I love.
Birding to me is more than a hobby, it’s an abiding passion as necessary as food, air, water, and shelter. Birds rejuvenate me, provide solace and hope, pull me out of human concerns and desires and connect me to nature in a deep and profoundly spiritual way. Nature is my church, and communing with Her is to be in the presence of the mystical, holy, and sublime. Birds are Her heralds, and whether I’m photographing, observing, or just walking among them, there’s no better sustenance for the soul.
Why do I watch birds? Because I love them. Because they fascinate and amaze me. Because they fill me with joy, wonder, and awe. Because birding connects me, not just to the outdoors, but to the people most important in my life. Because, like being a husband, a father, and a writer, being a birder is integral to my identity, essential to who I am.
I bird because I must.