Obviously, most of the people who are in these birding groups find joy in seeing and learning more about birds and birding. When I say “these groups”, I mean the Tyler Audubon Society, Birds of East Texas, Birds of Lake O the Pines, and Bald Eagles on Lake of the Pines. All of these, of course, are local birding Facebook Groups that I either started or administer.
Through these groups, and especially with the Tyler Audubon Society lately, I have led various sized groups on birding field trips and outings. It is always lots of fun to get out with other people who share your interest, no matter what those interests might be. I really don’t remember ever going on a birding trip and not having a great time.
However, today something happened that really had an impact on me.
I had a great time taking a group on a Tyler Audubon Society outing to Old Sabine Bottom WMA. It was a fun group and we were lucky enough to see some great birds. But that really wasn’t what made this trip so special for me.
One of the really fun things about these trips is spending time with some of the people who are newer to birding. Their enthusiasm can really be infectious and may remind us of how much joy that we found at first when we got out on our first outings with other birders. That is not to say that we still don’t enjoy that, but it is different when we have a newfound activity that really brings us joy.
After the official trip was really over, I stayed behind at the last stop catching up with eBird entries. When I finished and started to leave there were a couple of the relatively newer birders who had stopped alongside the road and they were still having so much fun trying to see and identify more of the birds. So, for a little while, we hung out and continued to drive down the road and stop now and then to see what we could hear and see.
One of them said she really wanted to see a Northern Parula. We had heard plenty of them earlier and had seen little flashes of them as they flitted about in the heavily wooded area. But after seeing a photo of them, she thought they were so pretty and now really wanted to see one clearly.
I took them to an open area that had heavy woods all around it where I had seen the Parulas before. I was hoping the open area would give her the chance to see one clearly.
I opened an app and played one of the Parula’s songs, trying to attract them. It was more than successful. In less than a minute, there were five or six Parulas flying all around us.
She was obviously excited but kept saying how badly she wanted to really see one clearly. She said it not once, but several times. She was so excited about having them flying all about. They were difficult to see at first but all at once, one got on an open branch where she could see it with her binoculars. The sun was shining brightly on it showing its beautiful colors.
“I see it! I see it!” She gasped and then started talking about how beautiful it was — going on about that for just a little bit until her voice broke and it was obvious she was crying. Talk about joy. Wow. She kept talking about the bird and how beautiful it was–with a sob now and then.
Maybe all of this sounds a bit silly. And, if it does, I’m really sorry you don’t understand the emotions that were going on at this moment for this new birder. But let me ask you. How often do you see someone who is enjoying something, who is enjoying nature, who is enjoying birding so much that seeing a special bird brings them to tears?
Laugh at me, if you want. Laugh at her. If that is how it strikes you, I am so sorry you can’t understand. But that moment and the rush of emotion she felt seeing that bird was so touching. It was a moment in my birding “adventures” that I will never forget and am pleased to have shared that moment with her (and the beautiful Northern Parula).
For some, it is a matter of going out and seeing pretty birds. For some, it is just getting out and enjoying nature. But for some, it is much, much more than that or can be. For some, it is joy.
And for you, the one who shared that joy with me, I thank you for this memory. — at Old Sabine Bottom & Tawakoni WMAs – Texas Parks and Wildlife.