What is it like being a non-birder who hangs out with a birder? Not as boring as you would think. It's no secret that Big Sis loves birding, and we often end up in places just because it's the only place a certain species can be found, or at least the closest place (does an eight-hour round trip count as close-by?).
It may seem strange to some people to go out of your way to visit somewhere specifically to see a bird (or should I say just in case you catch a glimpse of it), but because of this we have seen some amazing places. Among them are; Inner Farne Island in the UK, The Royal Albatross Centre in NZ and Hattah-Kulkyne National Park right here in Australia just to name a few. Sure, I could've gone to those places without looking for birds, but I probably wouldn't have. In fact, I am sure I'd never have gone to any of those places if it weren't for "being dragged along by a birder". Now, don't get me wrong, I've done my fair share of complaining during relentless birding trips, but they are almost always followed by an apology and an admission that I had an awesome time.
The fact that I love photography also helps. While Big Sis is ticking off as many species as possible, I'm taking photos. I am definitely trying to take photos of the birds, but at times that can be a very frustrating task. So, if the birds are too far away, or too quick for me, I'll take photos of other wildlife, flowers, plants, scenery, just about anything. Actually, I have this thing where I like to try taking nice photos of really common birds. While Big Sis has her spotting scope out sifting through the hundreds of wetland birds in the distant searching for Pink-eared Duck or some such thing, I'm taking photos of Welcome Swallows. They are an extremely common yet very beautiful little bird.
Just a few of Australia's most common birds:
I have 345 species on my world life list. Not bad for someone who doesn't consider themselves a birder. So if I am not a birder, why do I even have a list? Well just about everywhere we go together Big Sis is keeping a list. She shares them with me and I just edit them to eliminate the birds I didn't actually see. I think I've done a couple of lists "on my own" and that was with me showing Big Sis photos and her telling me what species I had seen. See, I am certainly not a birder, and if I am it's a very amateur one.
Having said all that, I now know a lot more about birds than someone who has never been birding in their life. I can identify a lot more species than I used to be able to. I get to share in some amazing experiences. Like the time we strolled with a curious Weka on Stewart Island or the time we sat in a petrified forest watching a Yellow-Eyed Penguin amble up the rocks with no regard for us at all. I do get excited when we finally track down a species that has eluded us on several occasions. Take that Chestnut-rumped Heathwren! I actually purposefully look for that Little Eagle that's taken a liking to the power poles alongside the railway track on the way to work. My bird awareness has been undoubtedly heightened.
So, in conclusion, next time your birding friend asks you to go along with them, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.