Bird-watching skills naturally begin with curiosity. Nurturing curiosity to an insatiable level will create a feedback loop where every question leads to an exploration that leads to new questions. This endless process will naturally increase your skill level, for which there is no limit.
Birding is effectively the activity intended to answer the question, “I wonder…” I wonder what species that beautiful bird is? I wonder what is making that sound? I wonder where I can find a bird I haven’t seen before? I wonder how many birds live in my neighborhood? I wonder why that bird is doing that? You get the idea. Many birders often talk about their “spark bird,” that is, the bird that inspired their passion, beginning the addiction. When someone talks about their spark bird, you can tell from the sparkle in their voice that they experienced wonder. Isn’t it wonderful that wonder involves both curiosity and awe, two key components to successful birding?
What is considered a success in birding can be very subjective. The wonder that leads one to chase a bird has to be, in part, its own reward. Otherwise the frustrations of not finding the target bird can become overwhelming. If the curiosity doesn’t generate awe, the search can be nothing more than exhausting. If success is measured only by destination and never by journey, wonder loses.
The lesson from birding for all of us is to hold on to this childlike wonder that brings awe into our lives even in the most difficult times. It seems clear that this is what Jesus intended for us when he told us that we needed to be like children if we were to find heaven. Of course, he also tried to equip us with the tools to identify heaven not in the by and by, but in the here and now. It is tempting to hear his description of those who get it as having “eyes to see, and ears to hear” as a special lot, perhaps similar to the birders who can afford Swarovski optics and foreign birding trips. But as someone who used inexpensive binoculars for a very long time before saving up for the good stuff, I can assure you that my observation skills were enhanced by not having the crutch of top of the line tools. No, considering Jesus’ audience, I’m pretty certain that he was pointing out that this blessing was available to all, indeed perhaps those who understand that it won’t come easily are more ready to accept the frustrations of not finding destinations quickly and so more gladly accept the gift of seeking. One wonders…
Prayer: Awesome One, thank you for wowing us. Please keep it up. Amen.