On her blog Classroom as Microcosm, Siobhan Curious posted the third prompt in her Writing on Learning Exchange: Who Taught You? My answer to that topic is given below. To see all the answers provided or to provide your own, visit her site.
SANDY TAUGHT ME BIRD WATCHING
Learning goes on everywhere. And some of the best learning happens outside of a classroom as you encounter new people and new experiences. When I look back on my life to reflect on who taught me what, lots of people come to mind. My sister Barbara has taught me what it really means to be a friend and how small words of encouragement can have a big impact. One of my leadership mentors taught me how important it is to appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the individuals on your team. My mom taught me to love animals and to always extend a helping hand. Others in my life have taught me the sort of person I do not want to be! Lessons are everywhere!
When I try to settle on one person who taught me something concrete, I think of Sandy Tomlinson. I met Sandy when I moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1980. We both taught writing at Del Mar College. Her friendship helped make Corpus Christi feel like home. I learned many things from her about teaching and friendship. But Sandy also introduced me to Bird Watching.
Jabiru, Photo from Wikipedia
Bird Watching is one of those activities that you will never fully understand until you participate as a bird watcher. South Texas is a migratory path for hundreds of birds, so it was a great place to be introduced to this life-long activity. I could look out in my backyard and see not only sparrows but also such colorful birds as indigo and painted buntings. We could go to the coast and see Whooping Cranes, roseate spoonbills, and a variety of gulls. Once, we even saw a Jabiru! This bird is typical to South America, but it had somehow gotten off course and spent a few days in Corpus Christi.
I did not just learn to marvel at the wide diversity of birds that were around me. But I learned the best guide books, the best binoculars and scopes, and some key locations where birds could be found. Making identifications was not an easy task. It helped to know what details to pay attention to, including but not limited to the shape of the beak; facial, tail, and wing markings; differences between male and female and adult and juvenile birds; typical habitats; flight patterns; and vocalizations. Before I knew it, lots of these details were second nature to me as I watched birds in the field. We took several trips to locations specifically to find birds we had not seen before. I even started a life list—and got up to over 100 different birds recorded before I drifted away from taking regular birding trips.
Red Winged Black Bird
All these details I learned are still there, waiting to be called upon every time I stop to marvel at birds wherever I am traveling. I surprise myself sometimes when I make an identification or at least know what details to monitor for when I can check my sighting against a good bird book. I think of Sandy whenever I am watching birds. She died years ago, but lives on in my heart, in the birds around me, and in the many lessons she taught me about birding, enjoying nature, and living life to the fullest.
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I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. Emily Dickinson
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. Chinese Proverb
Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no bird sang there except those that sang best. Henry Van Dyke
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings. William Blake
As long as I live, I’ll hear water-falls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks. Learn the language of the flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can. John Muir
No bird, but an invisible thing, a voice, a mystery. William Wordsworth
In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence. Robert Lynd