While birding with Corey a while back, I was abruptly struck with a somewhat bittersweet realization: I am at the nadir of my birding career. By career, I mean the ability to pursue bird watching to the extent of my desire, which is, as the name of this blog implies, rather ambitious. By nadir, I mean the very lowest point, rock bottom, the pits.
This observation may appear introspective or odd and yet, it’s not altogether unfortunate. After all, the reason I can’t spend huge chunks or even tiny fragments of free time out in the field enjoying nature is that I have two spectacular children that are more worthy of my attention. Mason and Ivy collectively conspire though age and adorability to require every scrap of energy not already committed to work, home, and my lovely wife, not to mention just staying alive. By the time they finally lapse into slumber at night, I might be able to devote some time to supplementary birding activities (like blogging) but birding itself is impossible.
The tragedy here is that my birding career is barely older than my eldest child. I picked up the passion in 2003, just a year before Mason was born. If only I had recognized the allure of avian observation in my 20s, back when my time and energy far outstripped my financial wherewithal! During that decade of my life, wanderlust propelled me back and forth across the United States. Had I been attending to my life list while idling away in southern California or Texas’ fabled Hill Country, who knows what kind of damage I could have done. Most assuredly, I would have enjoyed my time and travels even more.
I also squandered that critical period that so many of my generation seems to experience where material resources achieve an fortuitous equilibrium with extant time, allowing for indulgences like international travel. Can you believe that on our honeymoon, Sara and I actually had a full day in Fairbanks, AK, scant miles from the Arctic Circle, with absolutely nothing to do? While we were able to retrospectively add obvious birds like magpies and ptarmigans to our lists, we lacked the foresight to look for the more coveted species in that part of the world… what a waste! And if you think Alaska sounds like a blown birding opportunity, let me point out that we also spent a glorious week in Hong Kong completely oblivious to the enticements of Asian avifauna!
If I was a birder when we stumbled over this Spruce Grouse in Alaska, I might have gotten a better photo!
Yes, life before children can be quite productive in terms of chasing birds, but all is not lost. I consider this period the NADIR of my birding career, not its abortive end. Visualize a capital letter V and then place my ability, energy, and opportunity to purse birding as I deem fit at the nethermost point of the V. While one could scarcely argue that I’ve ever, at least in my adult life, been in less of a position to indulge in recreational wildlife watching, it seems clear that good times lie ahead. As my children become older and more independent, travel opportunities will open up. As a matter of fact, if their adventurous ways are any indication, either or both of my kids might become eager birders themselves. Who knows… maybe Sara will even come back into the fold, although I think my genuine interest in ambiguous sandpiper species has scared her off for good!
Yes, I will be birding more. The beauty of birding is that it can be enjoyed over a long lifetime, which is just what I intend to do. Times may be tough now, but retirement is only three or four decades away; when that glorious moment comes, I’ll be well-positioned to make the most of it!