Until recently, the only occasion I’d ever had to use binoculars was as a child enjoying an Astros game. Along with the contraband snacks, my parents always packed binoculars, which I used to scan the outfield at the Astrodome.
I eventually inherited those binoculars. But even as I developed a fairly serious hiking habit, I’ve never trained them on birds. Birding seemed to me a particularly specialized field, reserved for hyper-focused people who had the capacity and attention span to learn about the plumage, wing beats and courtship dances of, say, sandpipers.
I like birds. But probably not that much, I used to think. Birding took patience and quiet meditation, which were never my strong suits. And, let’s just say it — birding, at least to my younger self, was a nerdy pursuit.
My way of thinking began to change as we met and interviewed bird enthusiasts for this issue. I began to understand the attraction of this scientific hobby. The people — of all ages — were as fascinating as the birds they stalked. They keep “life lists” to register the different species they have observed. They spend hours outdoors. And for that, they’re rewarded with beautiful sightings and lifelong friendships.
As part of a quiet but significant sector of area tourism, thousands of birders will flock to Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula in April for FeatherFest and to witness the annual migrations of many beautiful birds. The crowds aren’t likely to be rowdy. And they seek something here many locals take for granted.
We wrapped up this issue with a new appreciation for birders and what it means to live in an area where we can start off our mornings with a sighting of something beautiful and sometimes rare. We hope you enjoy this issue, and like us, look at birding in a different way.
The Coast Monthly team would like to extend its sincerest thanks to Julie Ann Brown, executive director of Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, for taking us under her wing and introducing us to so many birders.
We’d also like to thank Alice Anne O’Donell for inviting us to “the roost” for a predawn viewing of the beautiful sandhill cranes and for all she taught us.