Adjusting the Focus

Blackpoll Warbler - Bayview Park - 2018 w sig

Blackpoll Warbler – Bayview Park, Toledo, Ohio

I’ve been doing so much birding this year that, to my surprise, I found myself quickly climbing the rankings in my county’s eBird list. I hadn’t set out to compete with everyone else, but when I saw my name hit the top of the list of “Top 100 Birders in Lucas County,” something clicked in my head. I began to feel pressure to keep my name from dropping back down the list. I noticed that on days I was ahead of everyone, I felt good. And when I was behind, I felt bad. I realized I wasn’t enjoying the birds as much because I was always thinking about which species I still needed to find, and where I had to go next to find them.

Osprey building nest at Howard Marsh

Osprey adding to their nest at Howard Marsh Metropark

I did, however, want to improve on my own number from last year, which was 201 species. So this year I wanted to get to 202 species in a single county, just to prove to myself that I could do it.

I was sitting on the beach at Magee Marsh the other day having lunch with a friend when we saw four American White Pelicans fly over us. That was species number 202 for 2018 for me! So, after savoring the achievement of beating my own record from last year, I decided to change my settings to hide my eBird reports  from the publicly-displayed rankings. I didn’t like feeling that I was competing with my friends. I admit I did take a screenshot showing my name at the top of the list, but that’s just so I’ll remember what this felt like.

Pelican in flight w sig

(I photographed this pelican in Texas back in January, not at Magee Marsh)

I don’t want to see birds as just items to be checked off my list. They’re beautiful and fascinating living creatures, and I want to admire and enjoy them. In the past couple of weeks I’ve spent time with several friends who are either new birders or are not at all involved in eBirding, and when I’m with them I notice that I see the birds differently. It’s a completely different experience in which I can almost recapture the feelings of wonder and discovery that I had when I was new to birding.

Song Sparrow singing on boardwalk at Howard Marsh w sig

Song Sparrow singing at Howard Marsh, our newest Toledo Metropark

Cornell’s eBird database is a wonderful source of records about bird sightings around the world, but I’m not fond of the fact that they encourage competition by displaying a constantly-updated list of our names and ranks. I understand that it helps them by getting more people out looking at birds and reporting them to eBird, but I’ve seen that ranking list have some negative effects among local birders. I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing anyone who truly enjoys the competitive aspect of that, but it’s just not for me, that’s all.

Besides, I feel it’s time for me to adjust my focus more toward the insect world for the rest of the spring and summer. Dragonflies and damselflies are showing up now, and I’m going on a butterfly walk next week as part of Blue Week festivities here in the Oak Openings region of Ohio. I had so much fun photographing insects last year, and I’m looking forward to much more of that in the coming months, especially as my native garden begins to take shape. Native plants bring more cool insects! 🙂

Fragile Forktail - Maumee Bay east end FOY

Fragile Forktail, Maumee Bay State Park, May 2018

 

This entry was posted in Birds and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Adjusting the Focus

  1. Littlesundog says:

    I’m glad you found a more peaceful place in this aspect of birding. I enjoy your photographs and I learn a lot here. I appreciate having other resources to draw from too. Like you, I understand why competition might help promote more reports and sightings, but that wouldn’t be fore me either, unless it was a personal achievement. When something is not fun anymore, it’s good to understand why and decide what to do about it. You’ve done this and written about it kindly and expertly. I’d say your “self therapy” might help many of us recognize similar scenarios in our own lives. 🙂

    • Kim Smith says:

      I got a couple very nice messages from other people who said exactly that, that reading this had helped them step outside their own lives and see things from a different perspective. I’m sure you understand how rewarding it is to know that your writing has a real impact on the lives of your readers, Lori. I know your writing has touched my heart many times. 🙂

  2. Marian Fisher says:

    I believe everyone should follow their own inner voice and criteria for excellence. For me, it’s to get a photograph of a bird as visual testimony and validation of their existence should they vanish before future generations have the opportunity to experience viewing them. So my focus never dwells on numbers, or ranking, or on people in particular for that matter. It’s always about the birds! Another great post Kim!

I love your comments -- talk to me here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s