Birding – the portable pastime July 26, 2012Posted by Phil Price in Birding
By Phil Price
If you love Renaissance-era art, you’ll get even more enjoyment from a trip to Italy than most people will. If you have a passion for French food, then you’ll get more from a trip to Paris than people who just make the usual rounds of Eiffel Tower/Louvre/Notre Dame. Travel is always enriched if it meshes with your interests.
You can’t force it. If you’re not interested in 17th-century church architecture, then stopping in every 17th-century church that you see is going to bore you to tears. And if you’re not interested in birds, then going on bird walks or trying to identify every new bird is going to diminish your vacation, not improve it.
But if you do enjoy birding, congratulations! Your horizons expand to include the whole world.
My wife and I focus most of our vacations on nature and wildlife, and had long discounted Europe as a vacation destination because most of the charismatic megafauna that once roamed the land have either been wiped out or forced into national parks that are tiny by U.S. standards.
But starting in our mid-30s we became increasingly interested in birds, and now, a dozen or so years later, we don’t have to see a grizzly bear or a wolf to count a day as a success when it comes to enjoying nature. We have been traveling in Europe for almost two months now — the second-longest vacation of my adult life — and keeping an eye and an ear out for birds has enhanced literally every day of our trip. Birding is one of the most portable pastimes.
Another great thing about birding: People who show up to go on bird walks are our kind of people, and we enjoy meeting them. Like us, they are not spoiled. If they see a family of otters a quarter-mile away, they are thrilled to see them at all, rather than disappointed that they’re not closer.
And of course, every now and then things go your way. We had long wished to see Puffins, and talked of someday chartering a boat to a Maine island to see them. So when we were on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland a week ago, and heard of an uninhabited island called Mingulay that has Puffins and is visited by a tourist boat twice a week, we signed up for a trip right away.
We would have been happy with a handful of Puffins seen at a distance with our binoculars.
But instead…oh my god, the Puffins!
So when you travel, take your interest in birds with you.
You don’t have to be a life-lister or a fanatic. Just having a desire to see something new, and the energy to look for it, will make for happy traveling.
Phil Price, an environmental statistician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is on the board of Golden Gate Audubon Society. He chairs the East Bay Conservation Committee and the Communications Committee for GGAS.
Tags: birding, international birding, Mingulay, Outer Hebrides, Puffins, travel.