Icarus Dreams

When I was just a tyke I wanted to be a bird. Not like I wanted to be Superman or Doctor Who, but like you may want to be a doctor or a nurse. Because birds were real, and had the audacity to fly around my garden making me sick with jealousy, I thought it was potentially not impossible that I should become one. So I sat, with a patience that would have alarmed my teacher, Mrs. Boulton into checking my pulse, in the trees and in the bushes watching and listening. Mum, I wasn’t, as you accused, hiding from you when you stood on the back step ranting at me to get in for tea or you’d give it away to the poor children in China. I’ll have you know I was birdwatching.

I didn’t know it at the time, but as a not particularly brilliant five year old, I had made myself a birder. Folks it’s really that simple. All though cubs I rode high on the crow of success, but then suddenly I found out birdwatching was geeky and had to take a sabbatical until I had married – like the birds I envied I strutted and primped to appear the best example of a mate – before I could show my true colours again and now I’m here to sell it to you.

I bird because I am (I’ll explain it in the Zen tones I use inside my own head.). Because it’s an excuse to sit alone with my thoughts, or quietly in the company of like minded appreciators of these feathery fliers. I saw it when I was five but there is something genuinely beautiful about the fact that birds can fly. We know it’s real but I’ve always found it quite magical, even now I know how it works, that something heavy can somehow get off the ground and dive through the air. Walking is just so mundane and logical by comparison.

I bird because it’s an excuse to walk quietly in the countryside and to talk to other people. Though it’s a quiet pastime, birders are generally a very enthusiastic and generous bunch – swapping tales in the pub at least as good as fishermen! When birding you can approach anyone you see, like a kind of detective, and people tend to be interested, I’ve enjoyed many a free beverage on a newly converted appreciator.

Birdwatching is also a safe, cheap, family friendly sport, don’t forget! I feel primal in a way, taking my kids out, being the one to spot whatever we’re spotting first – I am the hunter! And I’m making them exercise and get outside, and it could potentially save their lives – what if they needed to know where they were and could tell by the birds… Ok, that was going a bit too far but we have a good laugh and all kids like playing with binoculars.

But mostly I’m still jealous of birds and I’d still like to be one. I’m carefully designing the Icarus II, which will allow me to fly with them… Ok, that bit wasn’t true either, I’m not that good at science and if I was I was planning to create a magic formular which would turn me directly into a bird.

So, to recap, it's cheap, easy – you can do it anywhere, a challenge and a reason to travel to many exotic locations while you hunt down those special specimens. You don’t need much kit and the code of birding is international. You can make do with just a notebook and your eyes but if you can run to a pair or binoculars a guidebook and a guide you’ll be in for a real treat as long as your patience holds.

Where to go next?

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