Five years ago, if you asked me what my impression of birding/birdwatching was, I would have described an older couple with matching fanny packs, toting some cheap binoculars and a bridge camera, fawning over a hummingbird at a feeder. This was before I became part of the industry and got to see the full spectrum of the birding world – a world that has been full of pleasant surprises, to say the least.
Last week, I attended the Biggest Week in American Birding in Oregon, Ohio (serendipitous as it’s only about 30 miles from my home). I represented Vanguard and brought a nice selection of optics and tripods geared toward birding. I got to meet a ton of awesome people and enjoyed a lot of excellent conversations.
Here is something that I had been noticing about birders but confirmed for myself at the show: It’s not just for retirees.
Yes, a large portion of the population could be considered “seniors,” but I met a lot of people from a wide range of ages, all of them QUITE serious about spotting a Kirtland’s Warbler or another elusive bird on its migratory stop at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh. I’m talking kids to adults, Gen Z to Baby Boomers, and everyone in between.
And here’s another thing I noticed: Birding makes people young again. Yep. It’s true. Here’s an example.
I was standing behind the Vanguard table and a selection of our best birding binoculars when a gentleman who I would guess to be at least 80 years old passed by. I said hello and asked how his day was going. Wide-eyed like a child who just got a new toy, the elated man told me that he had just seen a bird species that he had not seen in over 20 years (I didn’t hear the name of the species because he was just so damn excited). Clearly, this spotting had made this man’s day, or even his week or month. He was like an excited kid, full of youthful energy. That made my day, too.
I’ve noticed that birders are welcoming to novices, as well. And yes, it can be a bit intimidating for those who are new to the birding world. Checklists, phone apps, and more help birders keep track of their sightings, and seasoned birders know their lists well. There is also the matter of equipment. Some birders might just carry a pair of binoculars, or even a monocular. Others show up with a full equipment harness carrying cameras with huge lenses and optics holsters, ready for all the action. Others tote monopods or tripods to plant down and get good shots of their feathered subjects. Lastly, I noticed there is a lot of interest in digiscoping in the birding community, which makes sense, since it’s a great way to get good photos or videos on a smartphone, without the grainy digital zoom. Luckily, we have that covered here at Vanguard.
So, for all of you who have the same impressions of birders that I once had, I encourage you to attend Biggest Week next year, or another birding event near you. It’s truly a good time, and you might walk away with a new passion for birding.
Jay Hathaway is the Marketing Director for Vanguard USA. He lives in SE Michigan and loves all things Midwest, except the winters. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org