October 5, 2005
CA Condor & Common Raven escort
California Condor and Common Raven escort

What?  You thought “bird” was a noun with feathers and wings?  That is so last century.  Welcome to the 21st century where we’re interacting with nature and we and nature are both the better for it.  “Bird” is a verb now.  It’s something you do, and there are 70.4 million(!) others doing it too.  That’s not a misprint.  That's the number estimated to be engaged in some activity related to watching birds in a 2002 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment.

When I originally approached my editor with the concept for this column, we agreed on two things--I wasn’t going to preach to the choir, and I wasn’t going to get technical.  None of my birding friends will be reading this column, but we want you to read it and get hooked.  Here’s why.  Each and every one of us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, carries deep within our soul some genetic remembrance of how things used to be eons ago when our species still had its knuckles on the ground, eons ago when the creatures we encountered sported adjectives like Wooly and Dire, eons ago when man still had a direct connection to the earth.  In our harried, post-modern world, we rue the disconnect.  Most of us would like to reconnect.

Do you hunt or fish, camp or hike?  Do you keep pets or plant a garden?  Do you have a calendar with mountain scenery above your work station?  Does your scalp crawl when you hear a nightbird call?  Wouldn’t you really rather be jogging some distant ridgeline, atlatl in hand, than negotiating the crowded aisles of your neighborhood grocery?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re probably trying to find your way back “home” to the origins of our species, and birding provides a pathway.

If “birdwatching” conjures the image of the petite, elderly neighbor lady wearing tennis shoes, lose that image.  Birders, like birds, come in all ages, sizes, and colors, and they cover the economic and political spectrum.  Busy executives are cadging lunch hour to run down to the city park, first graders are taking field trips; the homeless are writing books about birds (Mark Bittner was on the streets of San Francisco when his interest in a flock of escaped parrots led to his wonderful book, The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill), and the name of an ex-president has turned up in the membership of the American Birding Association.  Yes, that Jimmy Carter.  You’re not a Democrat?  Alright, on the coffee table at a certain ranch in Crawford, Texas is a book titled The Birds of Texas.

"Bird" is a verb now.  In my next column we'll talk a little more about why.  Be here!