Before we moved to New Zealand, I never really paid too much mind to birds. Birds were just something that were there. Flying around in the sky at the edge of my mind.
When I think back on our year in Korea, I can’t even remember seeing any birds. Surely that can’t be true though. A whole country without any birds?!
Here in New Zealand, birds are impossible to ignore. For a start, they’re so colourful, so flamboyant. They prance around screaming, “Look at me! I’m fabulous!” You’re forced to stare and enjoy them.
To get maximum enjoyment out of New Zealand birds, soon after we arrived I splashed some cash on a birding guide. Books are expensive here and I’m cheap. But I bit my knuckle and splashed some cash on a pretty awesome field guide for the whopping price of $45! (Tip: If you plan to buy a field guide, get it before you come, it’ll be much cheaper!)
What I didn’t realise upon buying the guide is that months later I would be a bird nut. Birding has completely grabbed me and I’m finding it hard to stop.
Gotta Catch Em All
Every time I see a new bird, I find it in my bird guide and read about it. Then I tick the page.
What this tick has done has turned my birding into a game. Walking through the woods, listening intently to the sounds. Peering up into trees following bird song. Playing a game of hide and seek.
Once I spot the bird, I have to identify it. There’s an amazing amount of satisfaction to be gained in spotting a bird and knowing off the top of your head what it is. It’s proof that your knowledge is growing, that you’re learning something.
If it’s a new bird, that’s when I head to my book. Learn more. Always an ongoing cycle of learning. Then I get that lovely tick of pleasure on the page.
There’s clearly something obsessive about my new found love of birding. My book is half ticked and it almost pains me to know it. I hate leaving something incomplete. It burns. So ticking off another bird gives a great sense of relief.
So I’ve started to collect birds. The whole thing is like a Pokemon game to me. I’ve just got to catch them all and will sometimes go to great lengths to do so. Waiting in the forest for 20 minutes for a twittering to get closer. Hiking up cliffs chasing shadows in the distance. As of writing I’ve got 54 ticks in my book but I’m hoping more will come soon.
Getting in Touch with the Forest
The game of birding isn’t the only thing that satisfies me. By birding, I’ve also found a completely new way to experience nature. I’ve always loved being outdoors, going on hikes along mountain ridges and through dense woods.
In the past, I now realise that often during my hikes I wasn’t completely present. I was walking through a forest, but that act of walking would push me inwards. I get my best ideas when I’m walking as I spend a lot of time daydreaming. Not thinking of my surroundings.
Now when I walk through the forest I am constantly aware. Always conscious of the sounds and movement around me. This gives an amazing feeling because I no longer feel like I’m passing through the forest but am actually part of it. I hear the birds, sometimes I even know what type they are. I feel the breeze on my face, smell the sweet damp of the trees.
All of this concentration is like meditation. I’m so focused on where I am that my thoughts slide away. It’s great for my anxiety. It calms me down immeasurably. Until I see a spider, then I freak out.
Despite making me slightly obsessive, birding is helping me to relax.
Yesterday I went for a walk alone in a nearby nature reserve and I found myself standing and watching a family of birds for 15 minutes. Bouncing between the trees. Chirping quietly. Dancing around in the sun. I was there and nowhere else. Not worrying or thinking.
Just watching birds.