Our first annual Birdathon to raise money for the Chattanooga Audubon Society came to close this Saturday when we gathered together to award prizes. Due to the fickle weather that fluctuated between sunshine and pouring rain every half hour or so, the event was moved into the visitor’s center.
The event kicked off with hot dog roasting over the fire. However, the use of the fireplace had to be timed carefully–the Chimney Swifts nesting in the chimney are only out so long in the evening and we wanted to make sure we didn’t asphyxiate them with smoke when they came back to roost for the night.
We didn’t have to worry about the heat–the fire didn’t get hot enough to roast the marshmallows at the end of the evening. This was probably for the best.
It was a lot of fun to meet the kids who participated and discover how much they and their families had learned about birds in the process of Birdathoning. They had a similar experience to what I think most birders have when they get started–the sudden realization that we’ve been missing an entire world of incredible creatures that surround us every day.
Birding can be addictive. It creates a sense that someone has been pulling one over on you and you become determined not to let them get away with it anymore. Like you’ve been part of a big cosmic joke because you haven’t noticed the Hooded Warbler singing over your head or the Scarlet Tanager feeding in the tree tops.
It’s a great analogy for how many of us live our lives–so busy and so worried all the time–thinking, thinking, thinking–that we don’t notice where we are or what’s around us. For me, listening for birds, watching for birds, spending time looking at them carefully and listening to their songs to really see them, really know them is not just a process of identifying a bird; it’s an experience of seeing and hearing with intention and purpose. Of seeing with intensity more of the world that is and less of the world in my head. And being rewarded with wonder and awe in return for paying attention.
All in all, it was a satisfying first go. We raised a fair amount of money for a small band of 23 people. We got 19 children interested in birding and their moms got excited about it, too. We had a lot of fun in the process and some of us added many birds to their life-lists (myself included). I got to bird with several talented birders who taught me new things, and I even got a couple of decent shots of birds in the process.
If that wasn’t satisfaction enough, I was given a really nice gift by my fellow organizers for importing the event from Columbus and helping to plan it. They even gave me flowers. I felt a little guilty, but it was nice to be appreciated.