I am an amateur naturalist. I absolutely love nature. I love being in the natural world. I love studying nature and all the sciences encompassing and surrounding it. I love that I am still mesmerized and in awe of nature. I love trying to understand the natural world, and I love that there is so much I know I will never understand.
One of my favorite areas of nature (among so many favorite areas) is Birding. The term “Birding” is a great balancing point between complete amateur and paid professional. Bird watching is a more passive experience than Birding, and some Birders will get quite offended if you call them “bird watchers”. Birding is more of an amateur science, unless you get paid for it, and then you are kind of considered an ornithologist. So “Birding” it is.
With pun intended, Birding dovetails nicely with Permaculture. Permaculture Principle One tells us to “Observe and Interact”. Birding requires quite a bit of observation, and this is where a Birder can get really lost in the world of birds. Of course there is the appearance of the bird itself, the shape, size, colors, patterns, etc. There are also the differences between the males and females, and the differences in coloration between the seasons. And then there are the bird calls and sounds, and the variations in sex, location, and time of year. Add to that the variety of flight patterns seen between bird species and other behaviors… any of these factors may be the key to identify similar species. For me, I never just drift off when I am outside, because there are so many things for me to see. I am in constant observation mode.
Principle One is the obvious correlation between Permaculture and Birding, but lets look a little deeper. Permaculture Principle Ten tells us to “Use and Value Diversity”. By keeping track of the birds we have on our land, we can keep tabs on one facet of the biodiversity we aim to increase. If we are designing and implementing good Permaculture projects, we should see a steady increase in the variety of bird species on our property. Of course, we need to keep in mind that many of our favorite foods to eat and also attractive to birds as well, but I’ll take a few (I said a “few”, not a lot!) lost berries for the increase in biodiversity. Besides, many of these birds will also eat our pests.
What about Permaculture Principle Eleven, “Use the Edge, and Value the Margin”? There are many species of bird that only inhabit the edge – that place between field and forest, water and land, valley and mountain Most other bird species will primarily be a field, forest, ocean, or land inhabitant, but will spend significant time in the edge. Understanding the edge will help you understand how to be a better Birder, and vice versa.
We can go even further with Permaculture Principle Six, “Produce No Waste”. There are many items that can be used as bird feed, bird shelter, and bird perches. Every perch we place give us a location for free manure deposits. Bird manure makes a great addition to the compost pile. Consider placing a small bucket of leaves, straw, or dried grass clippings under a perch or bird feeder, then dump the contents every so often into the compost pile.
Birding also keeps a person outside, which is considerably healthier than the alternative. Birders stay active. They stay engaged with their environment. It keeps them mentally moving. Besides the physical, emotional, mental, and possibly even spiritual health benefits, Birding also offers children to get in touch with nature. I won’t get deep into this subject, but it has been proven over and again in the scientific/medical literature that children who interact with nature are healthier all around. I love to hear my two-year old daughter tell me to come and look at “her” birdfeeder when a bird lands on it… and yes, she really does have one that is hers. I love it when my five and six year old boys tell me the names of the birds they spot. They are not experts, but really, neither am I. I am just a little obsessed. But I can think of a lot of worse things to be obsessed about. At least there are a lot of benefits with this obsession. And really birds are just amazing… they are beautiful and interesting and fun to listen to… and they can fly!
If you are interested, I have decided to make my Birding Life List public on this page. Feel free to take a look and let me know how you compare!
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Photo References: All photos are mine. If you would like to use them, please let me know!