5 lessons from birdwatching for everyday life

Felicia Guarini Birdwatching

It’s happened: we finally saw a kingfisher!

This iconic bird is not extinct or rare, it’s just very elusive. The only glimpse I ever had of it was a flash of its distinctive electric blue feathers in the split second it flew by like an arrow.

But last weekend, somewhere in Brandenburg, we sighted a kingfisher that was very generous with its time. It sat on a perch, flew towards us, and back on the perch again. Although it didn’t sit long enough for us to take a picture, at least we were able to watch it calmly in all its beauty. Until we realized that we were standing right next to its nest! Kingfishers sometimes take root plates from fallen trees as nesting holes, which means that this bird was alarmed by our presence close to its home. So, we left.

This encounter with the kingfisher got me thinking about some important lessons to keep in mind when trying to chase something elusive:

  1. Expand your field knowledge: In order to be surprised, you need to have some basic knowledge of your surroundings. You certainly can’t go looking for a kingfisher in the desert.
  2. Practice radical non-attachment: Remember that there’s no guarantee of getting “results”. Redefine success and focus on the process instead.
  3. Enhance your capacity for presence: Cultivate the deliberate practice of noticing (now called mindfulness) and become an explorer of your everyday world. Multitasking is the enemy of attention.
  4. Respect timing: Your plans may be certain, but the universe’s plans aren’t. Even when you wait for hours by the water looking at a perch the kingfisher may not be hungry, so it won’t go hunting in front of you. Be ready to make do with what you get.
  5. Get familiar with your tools: No two pairs of binoculars are the same, so you’ll have to learn how to use your equipment to perfect your aiming skills. And, if you share your binoculars with your partner, you’ll have to re-adjust the focusing ring every time. Most birds will be gone before you’re ready, but it’s a great team spirit exercise!

As with all things, we often can’t control the outcome, but with patience, knowledge and perseverance we can get better with time.

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