It got up to 97 here in the Philly area today. With humidity. I worked and spent most of the day outside in this heat and thought that jeans were a good idea. They were not. So when I came home, I immediately changed into shorts and lied down for a two hour nap. Heat does that to you, especially when you are working in it with jeans on. It is a special tired that working in the heat does to you, and one I’ve known many times over the years, especially since I used to live in Arizona.
What, you didn’t know I lived in Arizona? Yep, Paul and I both did; in fact that is where we met as young, idealistic grad students (time has long since beat out the youngness and the idealism in both of us). If you think the birding is great around here, you should have seen Arizona.
Except I never did.
You see, I wasn’t a birder back then and neither was Paul. Seems like a waste to be living in freaking Arizona and not be a birder, but I think that neither of us were ready to be birders quite yet. Sure, I could identify the White Winged Doves and Cactus Wrens and Greater Roadrunner because they were obvious and large, just like I could identify javelinas and pronghorns that I would occasionally see along the roadside (far away from the city), but I just didn’t really appreciate all the birds around me.
So, what birds did I miss out on seeing? Well, from looking around eBird’s lists people submit, just this month I would have been able to see a bunch of birds like the aforementioned White-Winged Dove and Cactus Wren, plus Common Ground Dove, Verdin, Bendire’s and Curve-Billed Thrashers, and Great-tailed Grackle from just walking around the ASU campus! Hell, I used to walk around the ASU campus all the time, and I even remember seeing the Great-tailed Grackles but never even looked for anything else.
If I would have been at the Desert Botanical Garden this weekend instead of Cape May I would have seen those above plus Gambel’s Quail, Inca Doves, Anna’s Hummingbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Gila Woodpeckers, and a whole bunch more. I mean I’ve been to that Botanical Garden dozens of times; hell, we used to take non-majors biology to field trips there! And yet I never looked for any of that.
Oh, it gets worse though. I did research on beetles and a few times I went out in the field to collect them and do some research. Where were some of the collection areas? South-freaking-east Arizona. One the places you need to go if you are a birder? Yeah, I went there and did not care. Ugh, just looking at a list for Patagonia gives Zone-Tailed Hawk, three hummingbirds, some flycatchers and phoebes, and so much more. And this doesn’t even take into account the super-rare birds that only occasionally pop up there.
It is a shame that I didn’t take advantage of birding in Arizona while I was there, but I’m not down on it. I’m glad I had my time in Arizona but, honestly, there were plenty of things in my life at that time that didn’t quite work out like I had wanted and I was glad to leave. But looking back I think I can take away a good life lesson from all of this. Ready to hear it? Good!
Don’t let the day-to-day drudgery of life let you forget to go out and see the beauty and wonder that is all around you.
Back then I didn’t quite understand that, so if I went birding back then I wouldn’t quite have taken out of it what I do now. Like I said before, I wasn’t prepared to be a birder. Nowadays, I like to go out and see the birds and add to my list and be a good birder. But those aren't the reasons why I go birding.