• Ask The Bird Folks- Improving the Quality of Your Life

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    Birdwatchers General Store
    Mike O'Connor, owner of Bird Watcher's General Store, writes the popular article, Ask the Bird Folks, for The Cape Codder newspaper. Every week Mike tries to answer some of life's most challenging questions. You know, bird questions.
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    Welcome from the Birdwatchers General Store in Orleans

    Dear Bird Folks,

    An edition of U.S. News and World Report had an extensive article entitled “50 Ways to Improve your Life.” One suggestion that surprised me was that we should take up bird watching. Granted it was way down at number forty-six, but still, they included it. Do you really think that someone’s life could be improved by bird watching?
    -Deb, Eastham

    Surprised, Deb?

    You were surprised that bird watching made the list of the best ways to improve your life and that it came in at number forty-six? Are you kidding? Dude, it should have been number one. What could improve your life more than bird watching? Well sure, you and I could both think of a few things that might be better than birding, but believe me they weren’t on that list. After receiving your question I checked out that article. I am now more convinced than before that bird watching should have been the number one way to improve your life. Let’s take a look at a few of their other ideas, shall we?

    Here’s one, “Grow a plant.” This suggestion came in at #12. Unless you are a farmer or drug dealer, growing a plant isn’t going to improve your life, especially if it’s a house plant. House plants have all the excitement of a bookmark, but with lots of maintenance. How many times have you had to ask, “Did you water the plants?” A plant just adds stress and worry. And when the plant dies, you are faced with the guilt. Stress, worry and guilt, all because of a plant. And what do you get in return? A little oxygen, dried leaves and aphids. I say ditch the plant and keep the aphids, at least they move.

    If you think growing a plant is dull, take a look at #3, “Clean your Closet.” Yes, you read that right, and it’s #3. I don’t want to put anybody down here, but your life is in pretty bad shape if sprucing up your closet is considered a major improvement.

    Some of the other suggestions might have been good ones, if they didn’t conflict with each other. Number 10 is “Quit your job.” Okay fine, getting out of a dead end job should help make an improvement, but that all changes with #17, “Fix your finances.” I may be over thinking this, but wouldn’t it be tough to fix your finances after you have just quit your job? It’s not going to work unless #18 is “Go rob a bank.”

    The list goes on and on: some ideas aren’t bad. Number 2 is a good one, “Learn to meditate.” I think that used to be called “taking a nap’, but nevertheless, the occasional rest is important. However, “Becoming a birder” is clearly the best thought on the entire list. Bird watching has it all. Let us count the ways.

    A morning bird walk is a peaceful way to get some fresh air and exercise, without getting sweaty. You can walk slowly, studying every bird as you go or you can walk with a faster pace and simply enjoy their early morning songs. And the best part is that bird walks don’t have to be in the morning. If you are a late sleeper or just plain lazy, take an evening walk; the owls will enjoy the company.

    Number 11 on the list is “Use your gray matter.” Let me tell you something, discovering cold fusion takes less brain power than trying to identify shorebirds or sparrows. If you want to keep your brain sharp, spend a September afternoon on some nearby mud flats and try to put names to the hundreds of scurrying generic shorebirds. Some species will be brown, some will be light brown, some will be gray-brown, some will be grayish-brown, some will be grayish-brownish, some will be lightish-grayish-lightish-brownish and they all will be moving.

    Birding can be done at any level that you choose. Nobody likes to ride with a bad driver, eat food from a bad cook or listen to a bad singer, but it doesn’t matter with birding. Even if you stink at it, nobody minds. Most of the people that I see every day actually know very little about birds, but they know that they enjoy seeing them and for most of us that’s plenty.

    Who’s life has been improved from bird watching Deb? I say anyone who tries it will have an improvement. Whether you take it to the extremes of a hardcore birder, choose the relaxed style of the backyard bird watcher, or become a money grubbing bird capitalist like myself, it is all good. And if for some reason birding doesn’t improve your life you can always go “clean your closet.” But just be emotionally prepared for the excitement that cleaning a closet will bring.

    Visit the Birdwatcher’s General Store for books and other resources for a beginning birder.

    March 01, 2014