The work/birding paradox

This week has been tough… Not only have I been getting to grips with a new group of students, but the weather has been ideal for migrant hunting. To heighten my yearning for being outdoors, most of my friends (and seemingly all of the social media birding fraternity) have been filling my phone screen with tales of their forays around the Norfolk Coast.

This has led to some ponderous, almost uncomfortable moments. Moments where I’ve quickly looked at what’s been reported and I’ve frozen, almost trance-like, at the realisation that I’m stuck at work and seemingly every birder I know is out zig-zagging through Norfolk’s extensive dune systems in their search for scarcities.

However, I snap back into the here and now and realise that I actually have a lifetime (hopefully) to enjoy birding and there really isn’t that much urgency to be out all the time.

I have a good job, an extremely challenging yet rewarding one at that (I teach in a specialist school for young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties). This is my career, my vocation.

At what point did I care… worry in fact, about finding birds and missing out on a new species for my ‘list’. This wasn’t what I started birding for and it greatly shifts the parameters and motivations for doing it in the first place. Time to step-back, strip-back and soak up the environs that I’m birding in… Not place unnecessary burdens on my already fragile mind-set and turn an organically beautiful pastime into a numbers based competition.

The work/birding paradox.

Joe

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3 thoughts on “The work/birding paradox

  1. Oh Joe, so well said. I’m a retired uni lecturer, but my need/desire to continue to help others is as strong in retirement. So, I’m still doing some part-time teaching, school governor, parish council secretary and help out at local nature reserve. I’ve felt jealous of those friends who can nip off to see bird rarities at the drop of a hat, but then stopped and reflected. For me I must balance my love of birding with helping others. Both help my mental state; I just need to remind myself that birding isn’t the be all and end all.

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  2. Bird Therapy is a great idea for a blog and a book Joe, and you write so eloquently and enthusiastically about your bird experiences. It’s good that you’ve recognized it’s not a numbers game. I think social media is wonderful to connect with so many people we may never meet, but it can also make us feel we are missing out! I write about wildlife conservation and animal welfare and I’ve recently felt under increasing pressure to keep up with others who are producing work at a much more prolific rate. We must keep in mind why we start things and what we most enjoy, and stay true to who we are. I’m not a true birder in the sense that I don’t keep records and I’m not sure how many I could identify, but they are my favourite! I love seeing them when I walk, or watching them in my garden. I don’t mind if I’m watching a rare bird or not. In fact my favourite is the blackbird! The wonderful thing about birds is that they are so accessible – they are in our own back yard. I live in New Zealand now and there are some beautiful birds here, but I want to come back to England and Norfolk is my preference! I visited Cley Marshes three years ago in November, but sadly experienced a week of fog! I look forward to popping into your blog to read about the local bird life! Good Luck with your project.

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  3. It’s easy on Twitter, when you follow a number of enthusiastic birders as I do, to feel overwhelmed by all the fabulous birds they are spotting – eg Cattle Egrets! Or even an occasional Hoopoe. But I am not well and I am never going to be able to emulate the talented and fortunate birders with the time and stamina to do this. So I stick to my familiar spots by the Thames and a smaller number of well known bird faces (particularly pairs of swans). And I take joy in seeing the same birds through the year as they pair up, bring up their young and change their plumage most entertainingly. In this familiarity there is contentment to be found.

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