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A Dithyramb to Birders

July 18, 2012

Dearest Birders,

You’re the best. I’ve suspected that for a few years now, but it hit me most profoundly yesterday. As my faithful readers know, I’m a beginner birder. In fact, I have this feeling that I’ll be a beginner birder for the rest of my life, and that thought doesn’t terrify me in the least. It’s not that I’m not progressing, but just that in the grand scheme of things, I’ll always be at the beginner level. But you know what’s great? I’ve never received anything but encouragement from other, more experienced birding gurus. The birders I’ve met on my outings are generous in their knowledge, endlessly patient with my gaffes and uninformed questions and never seem to get frustrated by my lack of, ahem, ability. In fact, it seems that birders really like having beginners around — there’s nothing like watching someone gaze at an oriole for the first time and witnessing the spark someone else feels when they’re confronted with the bird’s brilliant orange and black Halloween-costume-esque demeanor. I experienced that aha-moment, and the thrill of showing someone else what I consider pure magic when I took my husband birding a few months ago.

A few weeks ago, I signed up to play club badminton at my local community center. Let me rephrase that. I signed up to improve my badminton skills and to gain a greater appreciation for the game. Since the community center welcomes all levels of badminton competence, I didn’t think my ineptitude at the game would be an issue. Yes, I’m a beginner. And on top of it, I’m a beginner who hasn’t played organized sports since high school! And you know what I realized? Not everybody likes beginners. The more advanced players’ faces contorted when they had to share a court with me. Some didn’t even look at me. I was wasting their time. I admit that I kind of flail my body around when I run and haven’t yet learned how to dive at the birdie without letting out a squeal or a shout or how to aim properly, but I’m willing to practice! Last night, a seasoned player took pity on me and finally showed me how to hold a racquet properly and how to rotate my shoulder for a backhand and I found myself thinking — wow, this person is so helpful, he could be a birder! (about two minutes later, he smiled and said, “do you mind if I go play a real game now?”)

I’ve been spoiled by birders — by their generosity of spirit, their excitement about teaching me how to look closely, and their willingness to share their remarkable knowledge. Anyhow, I’m going to stick with my badminton group, even though my presence causes some of them to cringe, and I’m going to keep thanking them for playing with me and teaching me things (should the occasion arrise). Perhaps some of the birding etiquette toward beginners will rub off on them?

You really are the best, Birders!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2012 7:42 pm

    One of the (many) things I love about birding is that it’s so collaborative rather than competitive. Even the competitive among us are very often generous with our information.

    I used to be a competitive cyclist as well as a birder, so I sympathize with your badminton anecdotes. I quickly realized that birding is so much better because the novices can so easily get among the experts, whereas a novice cyclist riding with experts will very quickly find themselves riding home alone, which is not a whole lot of fun.

    We are a pretty welcoming group, all said and done. Birders really are great.

    • July 18, 2012 8:58 pm

      Hi Nate! Thanks so much for reading my blog. Glad we agree on birders. You’re right about the collaborative part! Though, I’ve caught glimpses of the competitive too, but so far it’s just been fun to watch from the outside, like an anthropologist…

  2. July 19, 2012 1:56 pm

    I love this post. You’re a great writer.

  3. diana permalink
    July 20, 2012 9:36 am

    Birders, 1: Birdies, 0 🙂

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