I started birding in 2015 as a 12-year-old student in Fuzhou, China. My story with birds began when I met an experienced bird watcher through serendipity. At first I was skeptical about the whole idea of bird watching, but it eventually turned out that birding was the perfect hobby for me: I just have a stubborn predilection towards these creatures. There was just something so unique about birds that I couldn’t let go of.
I only have the vague memory of my very first birding trip at Fuzhou National Forest Park, but I do remember that I was utterly confused at the beginning. I heard people pointing out birds left and right, but I couldn’t see a thing as I looked through the binoculars. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to spy my spark bird — it was an Eurasian Kingfisher perching on the branch at the center of a pond. It was the first time that I was struck by the clarity of the image and the stunning details of a bird.
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 at the end of 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 a year. The second issue had 500 copies, with some copies made their way to cities like Beijing and Hong Kong.
It was difficult for me to manage both the club and the magazine, so I ended up birding much less frequently in that period. As a result, I found myself in a situation where I was not growing as a bird watcher. And I had only been exposed to bird watching for roughly a year. When I think about that year right now, I am ambivalent about the decisions that I’ve made. On one hand, I wish that I would have devote more time to polish my skills. On the other hand, I did gain some invaluable experience on being a leader and a writer. Nevertheless, one thing was clear: I knew that I would never be a good advocate for birding if I didn’t have a more profound knowledge about birds. I needed to take some time and focus on the actual birding for a while.
I was further distanced from bird watching at the end of 2017. The pressure of preparing for high school entrance exam in China rendered it almost impossible for me to go out. Although I still managed to go to different locations in my province at times, I relied heavily on other birders’ observations. It was not a bad thing, but I felt that I was merely adding new species to my life list instead of learning about them.
The year 2018 was a turning point for me. In July, I embarked on a 30-hour plane ride and came to Buenos Aires, Argentina to attend an international high school. Without knowing a word of Spanish, I started a whole new chapter in my birding career.
I vowed to improve as a bird watcher, so I dedicated myself to learning in a totally new environment. It was rough at first, and I had to figure out a lot of things on my own because it turned out that Argentines are generally not good English speakers. Fortunately (or not so fortunately), I was introduced to eBird (which is blocked in China).
With the help of digital tools, I spent a lot of time in a reserve called Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur. I went there about 30 times in 2019, and I recorded about 130 species of birds in that reserve alone. Although there are still a lot of things left to explore in that reserve, I was surprised at my progress. For the first time I could find all of these birds without the help of others. For the first time I could listen to the sound of a bird and correctly identify it. For the first time I have the knowledge to guide experienced birders in that reserve.
In 2019, I also met one of the most important person to my birding career – Horacio Matarasso. As an ornithologist and the leader of South American bird watchers, he is surprisingly humble and down to earth. Through him, I got to know 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.
Now, I think, is a great timing to start doing what I was doing two years ago. As a start, I gave my first TEDx talk about how bird watching changed my life. I led workshop about bird watching in order to promote birding. And I’m starting a young birders club at school. But there are so much more I want to do. I wish that through this website, not only can I write down my experience with everything related to birds, but also more people would be inspired to spend more time out in the field to build a healthy relationship with nature.