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Being Forced to Bird

No one else is forcing me to bird – I am forcing myself to bird. When I decided to do my Alaska big year, I determined that I would bird (or try to bird) at least a little bit every single day of the year, if at all humanly possible. Never before have I tried to do that.

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So far, I have birded every day of 2016. When I wake up each morning, the question is not “Will I go birding today?” but “Where will I go birding today?”. Of course, absolutely nothing is stopping me from changing my mind and skipping birding for a day. If I do decide to not bird, however, I probably better do so soon, before the onslaught of spring arrivals and summer breeders is upon Alaska. Or I guess maybe I could wait until November to take a break before the last-minute running around that December usually brings for a big-year birder.

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Because I have already seen most of the birds that winter in Alaska or am nearly certain to see them on the trips that I will be taking this year, I mostly am birding in the Anchorage area. Although there are many, many places to go birding in and around Anchorage, I tend to go places that I know about and where I think there is a possibility, in the middle of winter, for there to be birds. Now that we are almost one quarter through the year, this means that I am mostly regularly doing repeat visits to a relatively small subset of locations. It’s like having multiple birding “patches” and not just one patch. Therefore, one big advantage for me in forcing myself to bird every day is that I am becoming very familiar with quite a few Anchorage birding areas.

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Another big advantage to trying to bird every day is the same advantage that I find in doing a big year – I have an excuse to go birding rather than doing something else. Saying “I’ve got to go birding” as I sail out the door gives me a wonderful feeling of freedom.

One disadvantage to forcing myself to go birding every day is that sometimes even a nutty birder such as I am would rather do something else than bird, particularly if it is pouring rain or miserably cold or if I am very tired or if I am nearly absolutely sure that there are no new birds that I know where or how to find. I do have some concern that having to bird so often will turn birding into a chore rather than a wonderful thing to do. And, in spite of my loving to bird more than just about anything else, there are other things I like to do with which birding sometimes interferes.

Another downside to birding every day is a rather inevitable feeling of guilt. As I sail out the door for yet another possible adventure, sometimes there is a nagging feeling that I really should be doing something else – like laundry or one of my volunteer activities or feeding the dog or….

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So far I am convinced that the advantages to being forced to bird every day far outweigh the disadvantages. The biggest advantage to birding every day of course is that I’m birding every day! I’m doing what I love to do today and I will be doing what I love to do tomorrow. It makes me look forward to the days because who knows what I will find, even in winter, even in Alaska?

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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

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