First thoughts

Yuren Cao / October 28, 2019

Green-barred Woodpecker. Photo taken in Reserva Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (July 10, 2019)

There has always been a strong desire inside me to make an impact in my community. To a large extent, this urge finally drives me to start this blog after years of hesitation and procrastination. One of the reasons for my decision to blog publicly comes from my experience as a young bird watcher living in a foreign country. I hope that my blog can eventually inspire more and more young students like me to take part in this amazing movement.

Another reason comes from the immense bond between me and nature that has been formed as a result of four years of bird watching in the wild. Most young people, however, have lost this bond because of the advancement of modern society. At the same time, they are faced with one of the most critical and urgent mission since the start of human society: tackling global warming.

Bird watching is an activity that could create such an important connection between human and nature. It is the practice of observing and identifying birds in the wild, using a binocular and a field guide. Through bird watching, one could gain a more profound understanding of the underlying mechanism of nature. This connection between our generation and nature may be the key to solving problems such as global warming.

How bird watching changed my life

Let me tell you something about my history with bird watching.

I was born in Fuzhou, China in 2003 and I started birding in 2016. Through serendipity, I met an experienced bird watcher and my story with birds began. It eventually turned out that birding was the perfect hobby for me: I simply have a stubborn predilection towards these creatures. There was just something so unique about birds that I couldn’t let go of.

Everything changed when I started birding. It’s like entering a new world that you have never paid attention to. It gave me a meaningful purpose in life as I started to interact with nature more often.

I was determined to share this hobby with more people. As a result, I started my little experiment in 2016 as I cofounded the bird watching club in my middle school with three other founders. That year, more than 20 students joined the club and we conducted our first bird species survey at school, finding 31 species of birds in the campus. I am proud to say that the club nurtured a new group of bird watchers in my old school, some of them still being active as birders and environmentalists after 3 years.

A major by-product of the club is its own publication. As the main editor, I founded and edited the magazine 鸟瞰. It is complete self-made and we ended up printing two issues in the span of one year. The second issue had 500 copies, with some copies made their way to cities like Beijing and Hong Kong.

In 2018, I embarked on a 30-hour plane ride, coming to Buenos Aires, Argentina to enroll in an international high school. Without knowing a word of Spanish, I started a whole new chapter of my birding career. In the period of one year, I went out with professional guides and ornithologists in the field, which completely changed my perception about birds. From these interactions, I gained a more profound understanding of the environment around me. 

Up until now, although I have learned a lot about birds in the past four years, I am by no means close to being an expert in the field of bird watching. In fact, I am often overwhelmed by my ignorance regarding the knowledge of birds. There are always so much to learn during a limited time. I guess that is what makes bird watching so compelling.

Nevertheless, I realized that I can still make a solid impact in my community. As a start, I gave my first TEDx talk about how bird watching changed my life in 2018. But there are so much more I want to do. So here I am, building a website devoted to bird watching and how it applies to constructing a sustainable environment.

The future

I am thrilled to tell you what is coming up. The first topic I will cover is watching birds in a foreign country, in which I will talk about the difficulties and surprises I have come across in the past two years.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder what will the blog be like if I successfully blog for a year. Some long-term topics I have in mind range from a personal level to a social level. This might include a discussion of how to nurture an environmentally friendly mindset to the endeavor to conserve endangered animals. Nevertheless, all these topics center around my interest of bird watching and its application in a wider context.

I want to wrap up my first thoughts on this note: four years ago, I never would have thought that birding could get me this far. What I admire about birding is its potential in nurturing an interconnected mindset among the community. In my opinion, there is no better way to do that.

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