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What is the Point?

Although this is not the first time the question has come to me, maybe this time the thought crossed my mind because it’s February in Alaska. No matter how motivated one is about something (and believe me I’m motivated about my Alaska big year), a tiny thought can creep in at times – now why is it I’m doing this? What is it that set me on this path and what is keeping me keeping on?


There’s a related, even bigger question. As I think I’ve mentioned in a blog post before, many years ago a non-birding friend asked me, “Why do you like to watch birds?” Although I’m sure I mumbled a few answers to her, like “they are so beautiful” and “it gets me outdoors” or “I can enjoy it anywhere, whether I am by myself or with others”, I am still trying to answer that question. Depending on the day and my mood, I can come up with a very large number of reasons, but when I say them out loud they mostly sound like lame explanations for an unexplainable thing.

None of the individual reasons, like loving to see the personable face of a Boreal Owl or a Northern Saw-whet Owl or the vibrant colors on a Rufous Hummingbird or the comic Tufted and Horned Puffins or the bold brashness of a Common Raven, is big enough to explain why and how much I like to watch birds. It is all these reasons, and something more. Much of the point to me relates to my joy in just seeing birds, whatever they are, even the common ones, as well as the challenge of finding the less common ones.

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Maybe there does not have to be a single point to birding or big year birding, or a reason for being a birder or doing a big year or anything that we do voluntarily, other than, “I want to do it (at least most of the time)”. The bottom line for me is, I love to go birding and can’t imagine not doing it. The greatest gift I can give myself therefore is the time (not to mention the money) to do what I love to do, and that means time to bird. A big year is really no more than a whole lot of time one gives oneself to go birding. Some of that time, like in February in Alaska can seem to go by very slowly, but it certainly would be going by much more slowly if I was not getting out there to go birding, if my big year was not demanding that I get out there and find new birds.

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There is a point, whatever it is, and even if I don’t know what it is.


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Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber started birding at the age of 7. In 2005, she broke the Texas big year record with 522 species, and in 2008, she tallied 723 bird species in the ABA Area. An account of her ABA Big Year, entitled Extreme Birder: One Woman’s Big Year, was published in the spring of 2011. Her second book, Birds in Trouble was published in 2016. While living in North Carolina, Lynn was active in Wake County Audubon and on the board of the Carolina Bird Club. Moving to Texas in 2000, she was active in the Fort Worth Audubon Society, serving as its president for 3 years. She is a life member of the Texas Ornithological Society, and became its president in April 2009. She now lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
Lynn Barber

Latest posts by Lynn Barber (see all)

  • Adam Roesch

    For those who like getting out and observing nature, Birds among all flora and fauna present unique combination of hooks:
    1. They’re macro species, so collection and microscopes aren’t required for IDs (such as in insects or fungi)
    2. They’re varied and colorful.
    3. They’re mostly diurnal, so we can look for them.
    4. They migrate, so the current array of visible species is always changing, and vagrants are always a distinct possibility
    5. They don’t live largely hidden lives underground or in leaf litter.
    6. Their behavior is varied and interesting enough to encourage prolonged observation of even the typical species.
    7. They don’t give people instinctual creepy vibes (like rodents, bats, many insects, snakes, and lizards).
    8. They don’t have teeth, don’t carry rabies, and are never venomous (so, if a duck or crow seems curious and approaches you, it’s a lot less likely to end with a trip to a hospital than a fox, squirrel, or skunk doing the same thing)
    9. Vocal variety gives us more than one sense to use for location and identification.

  • sgkritzik

    I will add to both Lynn’s and Adam’s excellent comments a couple of additional reasons why I enjoy birding. Watching birds is a connection with something wild, and this satisfies a need I feel to experience that. Without trekking to a wilderness area. I especially feel that with raptors. Along with this, there is the feeling of discovering something for yourself. Also, when one is birding, all of the rest of daily concerns are replaced by, dare I say it, being in the moment. The moment of observation, of song, of nature, of beauty, of “aha!” when we ID the bird. It’s a wonderful passion.

  • Mike Fiakovich

    Simple, we do it because we like it. You can ask anyone that same question about anything. Why do you like to do (and fill in the blank).

    Every activity does not have to have a complicated, moral, emotional reason behind it. We deal with that in so many ways every day that sometimes it’s nice to do something simply for the enjoyment of it. It helps us clear our minds for the times we do things that require our serious attention for other reasons.


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