The Birdwatchers

As part of my liberal arts education, I was required to take a laboratory science. I hadn’t done particularly poorly in high school science, but for some reason the idea of taking a college-level course was terrifying. I fretted over the inevitable drop in my GPA and put off taking the course until my sophomore year, making the science credit one of the final breadth requirements I fulfilled. I decided to take the non-science majors course, and when I went to my advisory meeting my advisor gave my course selection list a cursory glance.

“Ah,” she said. “You’re taking your science requirement next semester. Do you know what the course is?”

In fact, I did. Although the online scheduling portal didn’t list the course name, I had cross-referenced the number with the course catalogue and found out that it had something to do with plants as medicine. My advisor glanced down at the paper, and shook her head.

“I think that next semester the course is ornithology.”

Bird watching is an easy hobby to take up. All you really need is a pair of binoculars a guidebook, and the great outdoors! (Image Credit:



“Birds,” I squeaked, trying not to let the panic I was feeling show on my face. I hated birds. I was scared of birds. The idea of their cold, dead eyes gave me the willies. The thought of bird wings getting trapped in my hair, feeling the frantic pulling of their muscles as they struggled to get free, made me nauseous. “Great!”

The lab portion of the course ended up being field time, which we spent taking trips around the region watching birds and keeping bird-watching journals. I was not particularly outstanding in the field, but I studied the bird identification book and did well on the quizzes. By the end of the semester, I had scraped out an A and was happy to put the course behind me. I gave my bird guide book to my parents and promptly forgot nearly everything I had learned.

What I hadn’t counted on was my mom’s newfound fascination with the bird feeders in her backyard. We’ve always had bird feeders, but they’ve typically been a vague part of the landscape and the birds that visit are, for the most part, ignored. Now, however, when we sit outside eating dinner, the binoculars and bird book are in the center, just in case a bird should appear. We’ve seen yellow finches, purple finches, a male and female grosbeak, blue jays, cowbirds, chickadees, and a plethora of other birds. The backyard has become a newfound source of enjoyment for my parents, and they bicker over what bird they’ve spotted with a fervor previously reserved for the cooking shows on Food Network.

It’s never too late to find a new hobby, and while I doubt my mom will become a particularly avid birdwatcher, her new pursuit has given her a new appreciation for the familiar, which I think is always a good idea.

What hobby has given you a new perspective on life?


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Filed under My Experiences, Parenting

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