This is the first of a series on the topic of Minimalist Hobbies: Birding
I awoke to the sound of dozens of birds singing in celebration of the rising sun. How awesome is that?! I am very fortunate to currently be living beside a very large green space within the busiest city in Canada. (Toronto is also the 4th most populous city in North America.) My apartment balcony overlooks 9 football/soccer fields, and beyond that are more fields and trees, a golf course, and an extensive nature/biking/walking trail beside a river. (I can also hear plenty of traffic in the distance, but I tend not to focus on that.)
So, back to the birds. Birding is a wonderful minimalist hobby. All that is required to start are your own natural senses of sight and sound and your appreciation of our fluffy feathered friends. After that you may want to add some really good binoculars, a (perhaps virtual) guide book, and then you can start building your list of sightings. Birding ranks as the 15th most popular recreational activity in America.
My dad has been into birding for as far back as I can remember and he’s also a member of an ornithological club. Ornithology deals with the science and research side of the birding world. Among other things, they monitor the populations of wild birds worldwide. Some people might think that sounds a bit nerdy, but I never thought so. If you’ve ever had a really keen teacher in school, you know that with the right amount of interest and enthusiasm, any topic can become fascinating and inspiring. Now that birding has been counted among the cool minimalist hobbies, even more people are seeing the benefits of the physical exercise in the great outdoors, as well as the exercise in patience required.
As a kid, my dad took me out there into the wilderness areas, paddling in canoes, camping in the woods, snowshoeing and climbing trees. I loved it. Wherever he goes becomes another opportunity to catch the sight of, or even better, to photograph, a new type of bird. He has travelled to many different parts of the globe in his search for new birds, and his bird photos are truly spectacular.
If you have never attempted to photograph a bird, let me tell you that it is supremely difficult. They have an irritating tendency to hop or fly away at the slightest provocation. My experience is limited, because invariably, at the exact moment when I got my camera in line and was about to press the button, they shifted just enough to disappear from view, or dashed off completely. My initial efforts resulted in a bunch of blurry, too distant photos, but it was enough to appreciate the incredible photos my dad has been taking of birds for all of these years.
So, luckily you don’t have to photograph birds to be an avid birder. Apparently once you catch the birding bug, many people get quite obsessed. As one birder said of competitive counting, “You start doing this thing, and you go kookytown.” If you saw the movie, The Big Year, with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, you got a taste of the keen competition involved. That film helped to boost the already growing minimalist hobby of birding.
Birds are truly beautiful and inspiring creatures. We are so fortunate to have them here with us. Go out and hug a bird today!… okay, maybe only look at it and hug it with your eyes.
I’ve also written about some other amazing minimalist hobbies that you might enjoy: