At the end of the day on Friday, I felt irritable. Typically, a Friday spent engrossed in the woods restores sharpness to eyes dulled by a week in front of a computer in the office. However, this Friday was slightly different in that more time was spent in the car, driving around from place to place, than was spent actually walking in the woods. I know myself pretty well at this point in my life, and every time I get behind the wheel of a car my soul takes a beating. To mix the joy of watching birds in the field with battling moronic drivers on the road, therefore, is a bastardization of everything I hold sacred. This was actually the first time I tried this method of visiting various places across a sprawling geographic area in order to maximize the number and diversity of birds seen. Many people on this birding discussion list I follow use this method at least every weekend, and sometimes most of the entire week. They are not necessarily all twitchers (birders who travel great distances to view rare birds in order to build their lists), but I think many of them are and certainly they exhibit the tendency. I think it’s fair to say that people who travel all over the state to fill out their “county lists” may as well be called twitchers, even if the birds they are chasing are not rare, per se.
I always suspected I couldn’t be one of these people, but after Friday I now know for sure. I can’t stand driving; everything about it is abhorrent to me. Impatient drivers who crawl up your car’s ass particularly drive me insane. Just being on a road in a box made of steel kills me. I much prefer to bike to my birding locales. What this means in practical terms is that my list(s) will grow at a much slower rate than if I were a gas-guzzling twitcher. I’ll also end up birding most of the time in the same place (my local patch, as it’s known in birding parlance). And that’s fine with me. Sometimes I get impatient with seeing the same birds over and over, particularly in the winter, but when that happens I need to just stop and remind myself of why I like birding and, more importantly, why I love birds. It’s not a competition for me; I just want to observe. It’s fun to keep track of what I see, but it’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to reach that plane of existence, however tenuous and short-lived it must be, where I can untether my soul and let it roam free, as I immerse myself in the natural world around me.
Occasionally I will continue to travel farther, by car, to go birding, but I think I will restrict myself to going to just one place and staying there, instead of driving around to multiple places in one day. And I found on Friday that birding from a car just feels wrong to me, sort of unnatural. Walking down a country road looking for birds is one thing, but driving down it is different. The birds are more easily frightened, for one thing, and so I see less of them (not to mention more significantly disturb their activities), but it’s also the principle behind it. I don’t use a car to commute to work, so why should I use one for my recreational activities? I felt like a big hypocrite on Friday driving all over creation, when I could’ve just stayed in one place. Sure, I would’ve seen less birds, but at least my soul would’ve remained intact, and I would’ve ended the day with a more peaceful inner state. I also don’t like myself behind the wheel of a car, because I get too easily worked up by other people’s asinine behavior on the roads. I’d rather completely remove myself from that equation whenever possible, but especially when I am engaged in an activity that is as free and pure to me as observing nature has become.