What Is Birding About Anyway?

We’re all busy with life.Many of us have our plates so full, yet our hearts are lonely. Birding is one way we can reach out and touch each other which helps ease the loneliness and bring meaning and relationships to our lives. Since moving from Montrose, Colorado to Loveland, Colorado in August 2005, I’ve had a lot of adjusting to do. Living in an area for almost 20 years builds relationships and networks that only come through time. Moving to a new area – even a new area that you are familiar with and have family nearby- has it’s challenges. A huge one for me has been going from a quiet, secluded, 35 acre working goat ranch on the edge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, to a 3.5 acre ranchette in the shadow of Sims Mesa, to my now beautiful .54 acre suburban yard nestled in the foothills of the Rockies. Another was going from a small church to one of over 3000. Yet another was being known as a “West Slope Birder” to being a small birding fish in a huge pond of amazing, kind and wonderful expert birders. (This is not meant as a complaint, but a fact).
But as the winds tend to do here in Colorado, things are beginning to change direction.

I have to say one of the most influential events for me was the arrival of a bird nicknamed Pedro-Maria – Colorado’s first State Record – A Streak-backed Oriole on December 8th, 2007. This bird, I am convinced, was a gift from God to me. Sound selfish? I hope not, as I did share this gift as many of you know. Over the course of the 26 amazing days this bird was in my yard I and my family hosted over 400 interested birders in our home to see her. I had no idea of the ripple effect on my life that this bird would cause. She connected me. Honestly, I believe that this was the beginning of me feeling at home and belonging here on the “Front Range” as it’s known to Coloradoans.

Another thing that’s connected us is we found a smaller, alive, growing, church where we have been welcomed and received like they’ve known us all their lives. We fit.

My husband Al loves his job here. Anna my 16 year old will be graduating from the big church’s high school and has good friends. My youngest daughter Maggie, home schooled until halfway through 3rd grade has found her happy niche in the local public school, something I didn’t expect to happen. She’s now in 6th grade and doing very well. I love my job at Wild Birds Unlimited, and I am involved in our state and local birding organizations.

But, back to birding.

I had a free day this week and wanted to get out for a whole day of birding adventure. So I sent an email and invited Rachel Hopper. Rachel is well known in the Colorado Birding Community and a committed member of the Colorado Field Ornithologists who maintains the website among her many other duties. She accepted my invite (go figure!) and we headed east early Tuesday morning for some Colorado Plains birding. Rachel and I had been on one other outing together, a quick afternoon jaunt to look for Snow Buntings and Lapland Larkspurs. We found thousands of Horned Larks and a few Longspurs.

Our first stop was to look for a Winter Wren at Boyd Park that was reported on CoBirds, the states birding list where most sightings are shared. After a few minutes we found this bird. Can you see it? No? How about now?On our way to Jumbo Reservior we came upon this great flock of Snow Geese and also had about 30 or so Greater White-fronted Geese, the most I’ve ever seen at one time.Continuing east there was hawk after hawk perched on the many power poles. Red-tail, American Kestral, Rough-legged and Ferruginous. This one a Rough-legged.We finally arrived at Jumbo Reservoir about the same time that the 30 MPH winds did. But we found good stuff in spite of it. Thousands of Snow Geese, 1 each of Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls, one very mysterious gull Rachel thought could be a Laughing Gull. And this.

Yup. Really. Can you see it? Dunlin On Ice.
Great day of birding, despite the ever-present Colorado winds, but even better in my opinion was the companionship. We talked nearly non-stop from 7:30 to 4:30. We’d get out and bird, thoroughly enjoying ourselves – well except maybe for the freezing winds – get back in the car and continue our conversations. I think we went nearly around the world, and wove through the fabric of our lives, past, present, and future in such a way, that to me was incredibly fulfilling. Touched by another in a sense of being heard and understood is the foundation of who we are as human beings and what we need from one another to survive this hectic, crazy world. No expectation, no judgment, no criticizing, just being real.

This to me is what birding can nurture in all of us. Will it happen every time you go out? No, probably not. But it happens. Sometimes only a moment, sometimes longer. The potential is there, and I think by us being aware of these moments in our lives, not only can we have a fantastic time birding with old friends and making new ones, but we can go home better people because of it.

Thanks, Rachel.

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3 Responses to What Is Birding About Anyway?

  1. Larry Jordan says:

    Excellent post Connie. Indeed the camaraderie in the birding world is one of its most endearing qualities. It sounds like you have a great group of birders back their in Colorado to enjoy.

    I am so happy for you that you have found a welcoming church and a place your kids enjoy growing up in.

    Plus you had a great day birding! It just doesn’t get any better than this does it?

  2. Vickie says:

    What a lovely post. You are describing the depth we can enjoy when we’re doing what we love, both connected to nature and to a like-minded friend. In these moments, I have experience a contentment and nurturing that is beyond compare.

    Also love your experience hosting other birders in your yard.

  3. Mary C says:

    Connie, I guess this is my first time visiting, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your moves all around Colorado. And I especially enjoyed reading about your birding adventures. It is so nice when you can connect with another birder. Here’s to more great birding adventures in your rather new “world.”

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