When Connecting With Birds Connects People


Whether or not you’re into birds, joining a birding group can change your life.

Last week, we looked at groups that birders can join to make the activity a community affair. Our challenge for beginners was to try bird-watching with at least one other person. We also asked if anyone had met friends — or even a spouse — through a birding activity. We didn’t expect so many answers in the affirmative.

“I’m not sure it was our very first date, as she claims,” Rick Wright from Bloomfield, N.J., said. “But it was very early on that I invited a woman to go to the swine effluent ponds with me to look for shorebirds. She said yes. We’ve been married 25 years.”

For Gordon Dayton in Connecticut, it was the reverse. He was not interested in birding when he met his wife of many years, but the activity was something that happened along the way. “Some of us come to birding through love of birds, some through love of bird-lovers,” Mr. Dayton said.

Not everyone is eager to make birding anything more than a solitary activity. “I’m not a joiner,” Margaret Poethig from Arlington, Va., said. But as a beginner, she knew that other birders could help improve her skills. “So I started by participating in a local citizen science project, joined a couple of local bird clubs, went on a few bird walks and volunteered at a couple of club events.” Now she sometimes meets people who post checklists on her local eBird hot spot.

Age differences can also be a factor. When Roberta from Northampton, Va., became a member of her local ornithological society at 22, almost everyone was “middle-aged to ancient,” she said — but the younger people became lifelong friends.

Susana MacLean from Westfield, N.J., recommended that parents look into Young Birder Clubs at their local Audubon Society chapters. When her son was 10, he complained that he couldn’t find birders his own age. She heard about the clubs from the radio program “Science Friday” and said that the experience changed her son’s life: “My son made friends there, and to this day, in his 20s, he gets together with another former N.J. Young Birder to go birding.”

Whether project participants were looking for friends, partners or a sense of community, one consistent theme throughout the comments is that joining other birders is a sure way to improve identification skills, beyond what any guidebook or online resource teaches.

Julie Frost from Rochester Hills, Mich., had a different take on birding groups: “I’m on the trail, a couple of cameras around my neck, almost every day, but I’m rarely with a friend.” Nonetheless, she said, she still feels part of a group: “Others, out for a walk, stop to ask what I see and then share their stories of backyard birding. There’s always a birding community, even if we only know each other on the trails.”

Our next prompt: What are your birding etiquette questions? Think of it as Social Q’s for birding. Have you experienced any awkward scenarios you want us to examine? Is there something your fellow birders do that you disapprove of? Have you failed to get your friends or partner excited about your birding passion?

Email your stories to birds@nytimes.com, and we’ll try to get an expert’s insight.



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