Birding in 2020: a Year in Review

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Let me start off by saying that I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this blog, but I do know that I will be talking about things I've learned about birding and nature in 2020, and it will be from the heart (so it could be a long one!). This year has been something else - it's been draining, it's been eye-opening, and it's been down right frightening at times (okay, most of the time). But 2020 hasn't been all bad. We have seen communities and whole countries come together to protect each other. We have seen wildlife return to areas they'd been missing from for years due to human interference. We have seen what an incredible impact we can make on this planet just by slowing down and staying home a little more often. More importantly, we've learned that people really enjoy looking at photos of bird bums (inside joke for the members of our Facebook group). 😋 Anyway, here we go with a few things we learned from this emotional rollercoaster of a year called 2020.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

2020 has taught us that when we slow down and pay attention to the natural world around us, everything is pretty freaking amazing. Pandemic or no pandemic, seasons change, flowers bloom, caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies, bears hibernate, and birds visit our feeders. So many incredible things happen in nature that many of us haven't taken note of until this year. Now that we have seen the beauty in the simple things we've taken for granted while caught up in our hustle & bustle lifestyles, we can do more to protect them. Without protection and restoration of our environment, we will not only lose entire habitats & species, but there will be a rise in pandemics like the Covid-19 pandemic, and the outcome could be far worse than what we have experienced in 2020. I believe that 2020 has generated a whole new league of eco-warriors from all walks of life, and that is something to remember this year for and look forward to in the future.

2020 has taught us that we need to be more open & forthcoming about inclusivity in the birding community. I could write a whole blog on this topic but I'll keep it short for this one. The unfortunate and blatantly racist incident that took place in May which involved a White woman calling the police on a Black birder while he was birdwatching in Central Park, was a stark reminder of this. Since this story hit the news, there have been thousands of birders, herpetologists, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts come forward with their stories of discrimination in the field and several initiatives have been formed for their stories to be heard, and to help promote inclusivity and diversity in outdoor hobbies and careers. One of these initiatives was Black Birders Week, which was a week-long event on social media platforms that was sparked by the Central Park incident and other acts of racism recently seen on and off screen. The event was backed by several large figures in the birding community including Audubon, and hosted scheduled online presentations, bird walks, livestream talks, and more, some of which included Christian Cooper himself. The movement has been extremely successful on social media and has opened up job opportunities, scholarships, and more, to expand diversity in the environmental field. In our own local birding communities, we need to talk openly about discrimination of any nature that we witness or experience and call it out. Everyone should feel safe outdoors - period. 

Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula)

Finally, 2020 has taught us the incredible power we have to lift each other up in times of doubt and uncertainty. Personally, I have found solace in our Facebook group - and no, I'm not just saying this because it's my job. I truly believe that we have a special sense of community in our group that feels more like family than just another group of people commenting and 'liking' each other's photos. This group has flourished in 2020 and we have welcomed so many new members from brand new "pandemic birders" to seasoned vets, and all are treated with respect and welcomed with open arms by fellow members. I know that myself and several others have expressed the joy they get from seeing photos from all across Ontario, and sharing their experiences, questions, and advice with other members. Being able to connect in such a way with like-minded people who are stuck in the same crummy situation as you are is a breath of fresh air and gives us something fun to look forward to each day. So whether you join our group or not, I highly recommend finding that something that brings you happiness each day and connects you with others - even if what makes you happy is looking at pictures of bird butts. 

A few days ago I asked members of our Facebook group to share what birding means to them, and what 2020 has taught them. Here are some of the heartwarming messages shared with me:


"Birding brings nature to my yard so it literally is a window on the natural world. It is bright, colourful, always moving, enchanting and sometimes heartbreaking. In 2020 the birds have brought me a connection in the loneliness of this isolation." - Lisa Colby Perrin


"Connecting... during this pandemic, my brother Graydon started doing research... we started talking about his findings, and thought this would be a cool little “hobby” to help pass the time during lockdown... wow, were we ever wrong!! This is an awesome hobby, and we will definitely be “lifers” in the birding world! Not only has this become another hobby my brother and I enjoy together, but my wife, our kids, my niece, nephew, my in laws... not to mention ALL OF YOU!! This is another extended family of like minded enthusiasts, and I have to say, I’m happy to be here!!.." - Bryan Elliot


"I never get bored watching them. I learn something new almost everyday. The way my heart beats when I see one for the very first time. The opportunity to relax and enjoy the quiet and how it has brought me back to nature." - Judy Gadsby Belleville


"..Birding literally help change my life, if not saved. I was diagnosed with Depression, and was suffering from terrible Panic and Anxiety attacks two years ago. In the middle of that darkness I discovered Birding, that and daily meditation changed me in ways difficult to describe, those little bundles of feathers fill my heart with everything that is good and worth living. I owe birding so much more that I can ever repay." - Ramon Delgado


"Feeding the birds and birding for over 50 years and I love it just as much today as I did back then." - Bear Berry


Dark-eyed Junco bum by Ramon Delgado

That's enough rambling and sugar-coating, we all know 2020 has sucked, but we need to remember the good that came from the bad. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and reflections on what 2020 has taught us about ourselves, birding, and nature, and why it's important that when this is all over, we don't just go back to "normal". Because psst... "normal" wasn't working.

Happy trails & Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best in 2021!

- Shayna

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year! Off to find the Facebook group you are talking about!

    Karen, bird nerd :D