Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Hardest Decisions

Red-eared Sliders
With the cooler temps arriving and a new fiscal year of bird planning, the month of October brings me to a very personal space. I often find myself alone on the trails deep in thought remembering what it's like to walk in cooler temps.  The sweaty summer temps begin to vanish and are replaced with "chillier" temps.  Over the past several weekends, I have had to make some difficult choices. 

Botta's Pocket Gopher
I ran across this quote, "Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same." After my Grandma passed away this summer, many personal decisions were thrown into question.  My lifelong quest to understand birds, both new and old alike, took a turn.  Normally, I would target areas for new birds and go with other birders.  It has been a lot of fun and I know we'll continue to do so again.  But, I have other friends who are non-birders. My Grandma reminded me that I can't ignore that part of my life. One of my favorite trips last year was a trek out to Monterey, CA where I had the opportunity to bird AND spend time with good friends.  It was the perfect balance between birding and chilling out. 

Gray Hawk
So during that time in Wisconsin, I began to think about all my friends and family everywhere around this world that I haven't seen in a LONG time.  When a birder birds with other birders, they look for birds 24/7.  Okay, maybe we stop for a bite to eat, but it isn't for long.  There are birds to be found!

Red-naped Sapsucker
It's so much fun and it's an addiction.  When a birder finishes one trip, they begin to plan another and often with their birding pals. With these past years of travel, I've been hardcore birding and not taking the time to enjoy the other side of these treks with my college friends, etc. This is where it gets to be a tricky balancing act.  

Lesser Long-nosed Bat
I've gotten so used to birding with my bird pals that I've forgotten how I used to travel before my birding days. Margaritas over birds? Oooooh yes:) Each of us tells one another that it's okay and that we understand.  But deep down, we wish we were there with each other exploring new habitats for birds and other wildlife.  One part of me feels guilty while the other tells me that I cannot deny the part of "just being". Somehow I have to moderate my birding addictions. My non-birding friends remind me that I am human and that it's okay to sit on the beach and enjoy the waves. HOWEVER, the birder inside of me tells me not to waste the opportunity.  So I carefully study my target birds and strategize. 

Willow Flycatcher
Here are several examples that have shaped my decision making this year.  At a happy hour, after a few margaritas with friends, we decided to head to Baja California for break.  There are birds there but it's mostly about enjoying the beach 

a male Painted Bunting along the DeAnza Trail
My Mexican mother turns 70 years old this year in the ancient Aztec stronghold of Tlaxcala.  This is a very personal trip.  I don't speak much English on these trips because not many people speak English there. And to be honest, I never know how to plan for these visits because it's Mexican. Schedules are meaningless:) And that wouldn't sit well for many of my birding friends. You can't plan anything because everything changes on a daily basis! This is usually a trip I do alone. It's the one true place that I can be me.  In Mexico, I become a free spirited gypsy.  There's nothing like waking up and drinking a little coffee outside with your friends speaking Spanish. Here in the US, my life is a factory every day. So for me, not having an agenda is something quite special. 

a female Painted Bunting
And there's so much more to it all. It takes careful planning to achieve my goals each year. Next year, I am hoping to hit the 1000 lifebird mark. But as I have birded more and more every year, I have discovered that these journeys into unknown spaces must have heart to them.  It can't be solely about the birds.  My life will always revolve around birds but it's the heart of the journey that will tell this story of 10000 birds and anchor me as I head into unknown waters. 

I cannot live my life waiting on tomorrow because I know that tomorrow may not happen.  So living and enjoying life is more important than material wealth.  I have found that if I deny my birding side, I get depressed.  But if I deny everything else, it all feels empty.  Life has to have meaning and purpose.  

American Kestrel
While I wait for the next big trek, I stay close to home to take careful observations of my desert birds. This has been very rewarding. 

A female Anna's Hummingbird feeding from a cloud of insects
So when I'm not birding, I'm often researching new areas. Or we're having fun somewhere in town. 

When this year began, I had lost my footing.  While it was a financially tight year for me, I was still able to budget several birding treks with my friend Gordon to the Pacific Northwest and Costa Rica. I can now say that I've finally paid off some major debt known as the "STUDENT LOAN". As I get closer to the end of this year, I see a new chapter beginning in my life. It'll be one where I am with friends, both birding and non-birding alike, family and my other half as we globe trot into new places.   

Black Vulture
 For now, I have scheduled several important treks to visit people I haven't seen in a LONG time.  Several themes that I'll explore over the next year include questions like, how does a young person become a birder? Are there pyramids buried under three large hills in central Tlaxcala? And in an area that I've studied around those hills, will I find the Transvolcanic Jays? With my Jedi skills almost complete, can I find a Dusky Grouse on Pike's Peak near Colorado Springs with my family?  These are just some of the things I'll be exploring as I plan for next year.  Next week kicks off the new season of Las Aventuras.  Until next time....


  1. Very interesting to know now and seem to have accepted that life in not all about birding but it is richer for including others who not as fanatical as yourself into your life.

  2. Everything in you sits in your blog title. All the best to you.

  3. Life is such a balancing act! Interesting post about the struggles to fit it all in, to prioritize, to not lose one thing in the quest for another. I did not know your Mother was Mexican. I love that you have that strong mid-western connection (I guess with your father's family) and then the connection with your Mexican world. Beautiful photos, Chris! I am so happy you will keep are so great at it! :-) But, living those other parts of our life is so important too. Take care!

    1. Soooo.....I am a full blooded Cheesehead but as a child I stayed with a host family who adopted me as their second kid. And over the years we have remained very close. It's how I learned my Spanish and discovered travel:)

  4. Hello, Chris! wonderful post and beautiful photos. I am sure you mother will appreciate your being there for her 70th birthday, that is awesome. You have had some great trips and experiences this past year. Great bird sightings. I love the Gray hawk, that is a new bird to me. I am looking forward to reading about your next big birding trip! Happy Birding, enjoy your day and weekend ahead.

    1. You do the same eileen! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Life is full of gray areas ... it's hard to decide which way to go sometimes. Sounds like you have the balance thing down well.

  6. A though provoking post Chris. I must admit that as I have got older my interests have widened so as well as being fanatical about birding I have learned about other wildlife e.g. moths and butterflies and re-awakened an interest in history. Well done on finally paying off that student loan. Look forward to reading about what you do next :)

    1. The loan has been a thorn in my side! So angry about that thing. Every month it took a bite out of my paycheck! Now I'll be able to have a personal savings account! I wonder what that's like:) House fixtures, new car......I don't know where to begin!:)

  7. Congratulations on the student loan!!!! But even more congratulations on your introspective to bring you to a new place in life. namaste

  8. Our botanical ramble has one birder - which is good for the rest of us


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