The summer came and went like a blur but gosh the great things I was able to do! A second season wild bird and pollinator garden was expanded. A new plot near it was tilled up and the first plantings installed. I raised several caterpillars to adulthood and released them. And I was able to meet some great new friends with similar passionate interests in nature as myself. This had me reflecting on why it is I enjoy birding, wildlife watching and nature photography not just as a hobby but as an all out passion.
Why is it that some people quirk a curious eyebrow at as if I, or others like me with this passion, are completely and utterly nuts? I think of how I felt yesterday after I commented in class that I was going to spend the day, today, December 19, helping conduct the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. I was offered a comment by a young man of, "Well, that sounds boring." I have to admit, I wasn't surprised but I was taken aback and saddened that he, and many others, do not have any comprehension of how being out in nature is so enjoyable. I hear the late Steve Irwin's comments of how people will protect what they love. Do enough people love this world and all it offers? Do we when so many beautiful places have gone from green to asphalt and concrete constructions bent to fit our immediate and destructive needs? I have to admit, in a life that seems insane and stressful at times, going out into nature is a wonderful way to let all the junk go, clear your mind, and center oneself.
As a kid, I was ALWAYS outside on nice days. There was no such thing as the internet or video games to monopolize my time and keep me sedentary. There was plenty to see outside even in just my own little back yard. And as of late, I have learned of new 'green' places to go which has revitalized this want to explore. Getting outside is healthy. With a number of articles out there on these benefits, green spaces not only provide critical habitat for wildlife, but people need them too. Perhaps it is re-establishing an ancestral connection to the natural world around us. For me, it is my 'play time'. There is nothing more exciting to me than gathering my gear, field guides, maps, and tossing it all into the car and taking a trek here and there to set up for new photo opportunities. And when the day is done, I go home so jazzed in having enjoyed the great outdoors with tons of memorable photos. For those who do not understand this connection, take a moment on a nice day and go outside. Turn off the cell phone. Listen to the singing birds or perhaps a light breeze through a tree's leaves or the gentle ebb and flow of the tide along a beach. Tell me the stress doesn't just wash away. If you feel I am fool of hooey, then you haven't allowed nature to infiltrate you.
Now, this isn't to say all technology and modern living is bad. I can be thankful to the Internet for allowing me to meet some wonderful folks with similar interests and passions as I have. I joined a few bird watching groups, and through suggestions of other online birding friends, I am learning about new places to explore. I have been inspired to garden in ways that invite nature into my yard. Not only am I attracting more interesting subjects to photograph, I am providing habitat. I blogged about that first sunrise image I took some time ago after being inspired to try them after seeing the beautiful shots fellow birders like Donna Rae and Lynn were obtaining. Sunrise imaging meant rising early, loading the car and hauling butt when it was still dark out to make a forty minute drive to the location. And each sunrise image is different from the previous.
Planning these trips is no different than any other kind of vacation - even if they are short day trips. It definitely means some research locating spots and what I might want to try taking pictures of. I think of it as being like going on an adventure. I've done a few such localized treks with Lynn and Donna Rae and recently with new birding pal, Jeri. It was a blast two weeks ago spending the entire day tooling around Hartford county finding some new locations while we not only took a lot of pictures but added to our 'life lists'. It was an early start getting on the road at 6 AM before the sun had risen to drive to a location Lynn had shared with me previously. We arrived at 6:45 and met up with two more birders, Steve and Carl. There was lots of fun conversation about birding experiences in between the periodic high speed clicking of camera shutters as swans, geese, and great blue herons flew by. I managed what I consider one of the best bird images of my "career". Maybe it isn't perfect as it is a little noisy, but the serenity within the image brings peace and joy to my soul. We then traveled to a new location for both of us so we could catch up and observe a rare visitor to the area - a pink-footed goose. Thank you, Jeri, for this particular wonderful outing and I'll be looking forward to many more wonderful adventures!
Imagine this, going on a hunt where you go away having never harmed your intended target leaving it to hunt again and again. Now, that's wonderful! Yes, it is a hunt with a camera lens - tracking your subject and setting up the perfect shot. My subjects are left untouched and unharmed and not molested in any way because I do my best to respect what I encounter. The best part is knowing I can go out on another day and "hunt" the same critter again.
And yes, I have dozens of images of the same subjects on account of the challenge to continually improve over the last. I cannot count how many photos of Ospreys, whales, and Sanderlings I now have in my photo library. One image just is not enough! Sunrises are never the same from one day to the next. I might get a closer shot of a bird the next time I go out. I might see something in a whole new way that may never happen again. Or I may want to take several pictures of one subject from several different perspectives or lighting. No matter what, you will never repeat that previous shot ever again. Thank goodness for digital as I could not imagine doing the same with film photography.
For those of you who think you might be ready to try such an adventure outside, perhaps even with a camera, here are a few suggestions. Find a local birding or hiking/camping or boating/kayaking group. Look up locations on Google Earth for possibilities. Check out tide cycles as sometimes some birds are more active during different times of the day or tides. Look for nature trails. Need to know what time and what spots will be ideal for sunrises or sunsets, try Photographer's Ephemeris. Ready to start sharing your bird and butterfly sightings or learn of where to look for them, try eBird and eButterfly.
It's easy to become addicted to this life-lasting passion if one can see fit to get outside and pay attention to what is around you. I have to leave off with this consideration: no matter what thought process you were raised with - whether a belief in creation or evolution or a combination of both - we need nature and nature needs us. We only have one world and she deserves our respect and attention for she offers us so much if we just allowed ourselves to see it, love it, and take care of it. Oh, and check out "The Big Year" for a comical look at what diehard birders do!
I am an artist and amateur photographer with a deep love of nature. I love horses and whales most of all, am knee deep in the model horse hobby as a painting/customizing artist, budding greeting card designer, and love watching crime drama shows as well as nature and science documentaries.