I watched some movie the other day, in which an artist, a real historical figure, says something how art is a… well, I didn’t write it down immediately and couldn’t find it googling later (assuming that the thought is as historical as the artist), but I recognized birding in those words. Simply replace “art” with “birding” and it made perfect sense.

So I started googling for “art is…” and, thinking of birding, it didn’t work out well. Then, as a former climber, I started googling about rock climbing and discovered that it is practically the same as birding! Here are 10 thoughts on climbing in which I replaced “mountains” and “climbing” with “birds” and “birding” and it makes perfect sense to me. What do you think?

  • Birding is not a spectator sport. (1)
  • It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. (2)
  • I’ve tried many sports, but birding is the best. The beauty of it is that no matter how good you get, you can always find a way to challenge yourself. (3)
  • Birds have a way of dealing with overconfidence. (4)
  • Nobody birds for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really bird for the hell of it. (5)
  • The best birder in the world is the one who’s having the most fun. (6)
  • The best training was to go to the pub, drink 5 quarts of beer, and talk about birding. (7)
  • The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this; What is the use of accumulating one’s life list? and my answer must at once be, it is no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. (8)
  • The true object, as always, is not simply to get the birds and check them off in a field guide — it is to challenge ourselves. (9)
  • There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of birding a faraway jungle; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it. (10)

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

Here are the original quotes with their author’s names. I picked them up from the Internet without rechecking if the authorship is correct:

  1. Climbing is not a spectator sport. Mark Wellman
  2. It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. Barry Blanchard
  3. I’ve tried many sports, but climbing is the best. The beauty of this sport is that no matter how good you get, you can always find a way to challenge yourself. Randy Leavitt
  4. Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence. Hermann Buhl
  5. Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it. Edmund Hillary
  6. The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun. Alex Lowe
  7. The best training was to go to the pub, drink 5 quarts of beer, and talk about climbing. Ron Fawcett
  8. The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this; What is the use of climbing Mount Everest? and my answer must at once be, it is no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. George Leigh Mallory
  9. The true object, as always, is not simply to get up things and check them off in our guidebook — it is to challenge ourselves. Doug Robinson
  10. There is probably no pleasure equal to the pleasure of climbing a dangerous Alp; but it is a pleasure which is confined strictly to people who can find pleasure in it. Mark Twain

 

I told you, they were all about climbing, yet, they describe birding equally well. Climbing, birding, it is all the same thing.

I found one more saying that made sense to me, by Reinhold Messner, the Kenn Kaufman of mountain climbing: “Bolts are the murder of the impossible.” Now, in rock climbing, a bolt is a permanent anchor drilled into the rock as a form of protection (most bolts are self-anchoring expansion bolts).

Messner comes from a generation that mostly used pitons hammered into natural cracks by the lead climber and afterwards hammered out by the second climber, leaving the rock face as pure as it was found. Bolts practically took the risk of a serious injury out of climbing. And, without risk, they forever changed the set of climber’s mind. Without the risk, you can achieve just about anything. But the question remains, have you really achieved it then?

It is an overreliance on technology. What would be the birding equivalent of a bolt? Playback. Some birds are not meant to be found, they remain the reason to come back again, to keep on birding, to keep on… Playback is the murder of the impossible.

Cover photo by Ben Crampton, a.k.a. The Diplobirder, birding Ethiopia where legends are born

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Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Central America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66