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