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There are many reasons to love birding. It keeps your mind and senses active. Listening, observing, trying to decide what bird you are watching are great exercises for the brain. It creates learning challenges for the visual, the sounds and the memory of birds you know, to come up with a bird’s identification.

There is also a sense of anticipation and excitement in a day of birding. One is always looking for a new or unusual sighting that gives birding the feeling of a treasure hunt. At times there are surprising discoveries! One year on the Eugene Christmas Bird Count, Dave Bontrager identified a rare Falcated Duck on a pond near Coburg. It was a cold, wet, windy day but he persisted in watching this bird riding the whitecaps on the pond, until he was certain of its identity. Way to go Dave!

Bird watching also takes us out of our own headspace and into the world of the bird. Observing their behaviors, feeding strategies, watching them bathe and preen, interacting with each other, delighting in their lovely feathers and songs; all these give us yet another aspect of the birding adventure. Peeking into their world creates a form of escapism so that we feel a part of the bird’s world, a kinship with nature and a sense of awe in the beauty of this world around us. I know it makes me feel happy!

Birders tend to be fun to be around. There is a humor, enthusiasm and optimism to birders’ approach to the pastime of birding. I’ve met many friends through birding and find we have much in common. Birders tend to be alert, eager to learn, engaged in the world and also willing to share their experiences.

Every birding experience is not necessarily a happy one. Birds are like every living thing—they need to eat to survive, and sometimes they eat each other. They compete for food, territory and nest sites; they may be injured or killed. It can be sad and distressing to watch these events. We find a way to accept the finality of nature and take this experience to heart. Birding gives us rich experiences, which may be either positive or sad. It does make us feel alive and gives us a deeper understanding of nature’s ways. Natural processes will prevail, if given a chance. Caring about birds and nature is one way to find peace of mind and hope for our future, even if it’s only a glimmer of hope.

All of these reasons make me feel thankful to be a birder!