2018 proved to be one of my best birding years ever. In addition to spotting exciting new species in Florida, including the rare Snail Kite, travel across the country brought me into contact with birds in Oregon, California, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alabama, and more. Daily birding in my own hometown added to the joy of seeing common species in uncommon circumstances, like a Bald Eagle perched on a Destin sand dune.
2019? Not so much.
For many women, pregnancy gives them a burst of energy, the joy of creating new life the boost they need to continue their daily activities while growing a human inside them. I did not fall into that category. Three months of non-stop morning sickness left me drained, and I cancelled planned trips to Texas and New York, where I would have added a plethora of birds to my year list. Birding even close to home didn’t even appeal to me, as the extra movement added to the dry heaves (pregnancy is super fun, am I right ladies?).
A new job at Audubon Florida was and is a dream come true, but meant a move to a new city and the added load of novel job responsibilities just as I left morning sickness behind and began my second trimester. A brief trip to Maine did result in beautiful neotropical migrants, as well as resident species that I couldn’t see in the Southeast, but those few days remained my birding highlight for the rest of the year.
And the third trimester? Forget it. Quick trips to Wakulla Springs State Park, the Alafia Bird Bank Sanctuary, and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge replenished by naturalist spirit, but remained all I could manage.
With changes to my priorities – at least for nine months – I couldn’t help but question myself. Why couldn’t I summon the extra energy to see the flamingo that recently alighted at St. Marks? Why couldn’t I keep a better log of the birds I did see from my lake-adjacent backyard? What was wrong with me?
As I stare down my rapidly approaching due date, I realize: nothing is wrong! The year of less birding didn’t diminish my love for these native species, but made me appreciate how much I have seen. I am determined to instill the same love for the natural landscape in my friends and family, especially any new, tiny members. It’s not about the birds you’ve missed, it’s about the birds you have yet to see. With my new job, I feel privileged to work towards protecting vulnerable species each and very day.
So cheers to 2020, and more birding adventures!
Just beautiful, mama! I’m a mom of 5 and a very amateur birder. For me, the time spent in nature with my 5 kids is the highlight of my birding, especially when I hear them get excited about a bird! I’m so glad that you’re able to see that this isn’t the end of your hobby, but a wonderful shift. Chances are good your little one won’t love birding for a while (most of mine are still in the “so loud there are no birds for miles” stage!) but someday your child will come running to you and say “mom get your binoculars, there’s a tufted titmouse on the feeder!” And you’ll be so very happy ??
Congratulations Erika! A whole new world of wonder and frustration and joy awaits you. Best wishes for an easy and quick L&D.
Thank you for this heartfelt piece, and for making me feel better about my own slacking … I haven’t been hardcore birding since my LO (little one, you’ll get to know the shorthand soon) was conceived. (Thanks #zika #extendedbreastfeeding) And I stopped writing for 10,000 Birds after he was born, too … priorities shifted. Your essay is a reminder that I need to return to the things that make me *me*. (New Year’s resolution!)
Thank you also Ashley for truthtelling that it can be hard out there for a mombirder. When my kid was under a year, I wanted to join a birdwalk and asked if it was stroller-friendly (because he refused to be worn!). The walk leader–a woman!–coldly intimated in her reply that young children really weren’t welcome. (Even though I obviously would have stepped away if he fussed or needed to nurse!) It broke my heart and has discouraged me from bringing him birding. (Him catching Lyme disease this year hasn’t helped!) But now that he’s older, and I am much more practiced at not giving any @#$%s what other people think, maybe it’s time to take him along, just the two of us.
Sorry for the novel … I guess I had to pour this out to people who would understand. Thank you both, and may the birds you see this year be as precious as your babies!