Baltimore Oriole on phragmite stem (800x800) w frame

Baltimore Oriole

What would you think if I told you I spent ten days at a birding festival and didn’t go birding? That’s not exactly what happened, but it sure felt like I did much less birdwatching this year at the Biggest Week in American Birding (“BW”). It wasn’t because of the less-than-perfect weather — cold and rain don’t stop birders. And it wasn’t because the birds didn’t show up — they most certainly did. I saw 136 different species, including 12 Life Birds (species I’d never seen before).

No, the surprising thing to my introverted self was that I turned into a social butterfly, seemingly overnight. This was my fourth year attending the festival and my second as a volunteer, and each year I’ve been absorbed further into what I can only refer to as a huge, loving “birder family.” Admittedly I don’t have much to compare it with, having not attended any other large birding festivals, but I can’t imagine that many other events this size could be as welcoming and embracing of everyone as the BW.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks far out of their normal range in Florida. Exciting and rare life birds for me!

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks far out of their normal range of Florida. Exciting and rare life birds for me!

This year I was eager to reconnect with friends I’d made last year and to meet for the first time some I’d only known online. One friend issued an open invitation to hang out at her cottage on the shore of Lake Erie and I went out there twice to enjoy her wonderful cooking and hospitality. Another friend is a talented singer/songwriter and he entertained us so well our sides hurt from laughter. I made new friends of all ages, from the early 20s to about 70. We went birding together, we had long talks about all sorts of things, we ate pie to celebrate our life birds, and we hugged each other every day. I know there are people who don’t like to hug or be hugged, but I am not one of those people. I’m a hugger. And boy did I get my fill of great big bear hugs.

Magnolia Warbler singing

Magnolia Warbler singing

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve struggled my whole life with finding friends who really “get me.” I’ve never felt this type of acceptance and love from anyone I wasn’t genetically related to before. It’s new and wonderful — and a bit scary. A little voice in my head keeps trying to warn me that it won’t last, and that maybe it wasn’t really as real as I thought it was. Or maybe that I’ll go back in my shell and lose touch with them…I don’t know why I always feel a sense of doom when things are going well in my life.

Eastern Kingbird, a very charismatic flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird, a very charismatic flycatcher

All I know is that, this year at least, those beautiful birds took second place to the people. I’ve always felt that I’m on the outside of our society (or at least on the fringes), looking in at people who don’t understand me or share my outlook on life and the natural world. As it turns out, all these wonderful people were out there, and they see the world the same way I do. They understand how humans are connected to our environment and they work to preserve the habitats that we and the birds depend on. Many of them are scientists, researchers, and self-taught naturalists. They’re kind. They’re funny. They’re open-minded. They’re people I can respect and learn from. They’re my birding family. I wonder why it took me so long to find my tribe?

Scarlet Tanagers - the yellow one is the female

Scarlet Tanagers – the yellow one is the female

Since I got home I’ve been feeling a bit sad about having to say goodbye and see them all go their separate ways, back to their homes in New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. By the way, I’ve never been one that’s drawn to the southwestern desert part of our country before, but now I have a reason to want to visit. My friends who live in New Mexico really love it there, and I need to go see what it is they’re so passionate about.

This last picture is a Carolina Wren belting out his beautiful tune with all he’s got. I was reminded of it yesterday when I told the owner of our local Wild Birds Unlimited store about my surprise at my recent extrovert tendencies and she said matter-of-factly, “You’re singing more.” I love that image of myself as a bird singing just for the sheer joy of it, because life is good. I’ve said this many times but I need to repeat it: Birds and birders have changed my life. I don’t always like change, but this kind of change has been a long time coming and I’m loving every minute of my new outward-facing life. Thanks for letting me share it with you.

Carolina Wren singing - silhouette - great pic (800x571)

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10 Responses to Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

  1. Littlesundog says:

    I smiled as I read this… I usually look at and read your posts two to three times, pictures first! Well, you caught me immediately with the opening paragraph. I had to know how the ten days of birding ended up being about something different – something we introverts have such difficulty with!

    I completely relate to how you feel about social situations, the fears, feelings of doom and eventual disappointment. Yet recently, I have come to understand that each relationship or experience has its place and time. I’ve learned to enjoy the happiness – I gleaned something substantial and from it, and I feel thankful. It’s that “living in the moment” aspect I am always harping about.

    Kim, these photos are outstanding. I think you’d do well selling as stock photos, or entering them in contests or magazines if you wished. Stunning work!

    • Thanks for the compliments on my photos, Lori. I take lots and lots of them while I’m birdwatching, and out of hundreds on any given day I usually get a few good ones. But I save many of the not-so-good ones too, because sometimes they bring back memories of what the bird was doing and how it felt to be sharing a part of its life for a few minutes.

      I entered about a dozen of my best shots in a bird photography contest a year or so ago and got discouraged when I didn’t even get an honorable mention or a “thanks for entering” note. I think I get enough enjoyment out of sharing them on my blog and on Flickr, at least for now. (Never say “never”….)

      Your point of living in the moment is well-taken — thanks for that reminder!

  2. I am so, so happy for you, Kim! You have found your tribe, and that changes everything. As introverts it really is so easy to always feel like we are on the outside looking in (or should that be on the inside looking out?). Sometimes I think the problem is we end up “looking in” on the wrong space, if that makes sense. I love that image of you singing, along with the picture of the bird.

    Also it was interesting hearing you say you always feel a sense of doom when something is going well in your life. I have that happen to me too, and I wish it didn’t. I remember last summer for the first month or so after we moved to our cottage waiting for something bad to happen and take it all away. I still get that feeling sometimes even now.

    Wonderful pictures too!

  3. Outstanding photos, Kim! And outstanding job you did w/ the likes of us on the blogging team! Thank you for your hard work and dedication. Kim(s) Rule!

    • Thanks, Jerry! I had a great time wrangling the bloggers this year. Thank you for your fabulous posts promoting the festival — I hope we sent some good traffic to you as well. Hope to see you in the field this summer!

  4. Donna Madrid-Simonetti says:

    Life is a journey full of changes, Kim. If WE CHOOSE to, we will never stop learning, meeting new people, adventuring & even ch-ch-ch-changing….. It’s all up to us. No matter our years on earth. You’re diving in & getting out of your comfort zone! Taking risks. It’s working for you & paying off well. Since I retired I found an entire new “tribe” of people that I love & respect dearly. You are one of them! I feel great Peace. Thanks be to Nature & some wonderful people I have met & other. Same as all friendships through life- some will stay & some will go. Some will be on deeper levels. Whatever is meant to be will be. Being a “seeker” is good! Just keep moving forward. You’re doing well, Kim. I’m sure you will touch many people as you journey on. Journey on with Peace.
    You would definitely be welcome to the southwest. I think I’ve told you this before.

    • Donna, thank you for your kindness and your wise words. I’m so glad to know you and I hope we’ll continue exploring our friendship in the months and years ahead. And I would love to visit your beloved desert and have you show it to me through your eyes. At least then I might have a chance of finding one of those little horned lizards that are camouflaged so well! xoxo

  5. Corralena says:

    We like you. We really, really like you. Actually, we love you. And you need to come to NM. xo

    • xoxo Linda! Don’t tell Eric but I booked a hotel room in Harlingen for the RGVBF, just in case I can make it. Will you be there this year?

      And now I’m having Sally Field flashbacks…LOL.

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