I've been a birder for over 50 years. I was the one
person in my (Australian bush*) farmer's family that took an
interest in birds almost from the time I could walk and talk. I
became very adept at bird call identification and, as a youth at least, bird
call mimicry - no TV back then at home. I often got razzed by my elder
brothers - even when a rooster crowed - "sshh, listen ... plumheads".
They razz me still. I love it. (And, of course, they are closet
birders themselves although they would never admit it to me.)
But the biggest event in my life was getting <my first
binoculars> at about age 8 or 9. Old, tattered, with bloomed lenses and
all, but <magic>.
Sure, I still had to go into town to the library at the
weekend to read 'What Bird is That?'. But to be able to 'sneak
up' on the willie wagtails, the plumheads and diamond sparrers, the jenny wrens
and bronzewings, double bars and zebs, was the real foundation of my lifelong
interest. (When my friends were playing 'cowboys and injuns', I was on 'safari'
rediscovering my secret valley full of night parrots.)
So, in my humble view, we have to "Pay it Forward" and
take the opportunity whenever we can to get old or new, cheap or not so cheap
binoculars into the hands of children. Because when we do, the rest will
follow. They will beg their parents and relatives for books on birds and
other animals, on nature, the environment, and the earth. They will 'show
and tell' at school. About a year ago, I gave a pair of used and battered
7x35s and a 'backyard birds' book to an 11 year old. She is moderately
interested still (boys are a higher priority), but the parents - well, they now
have books, binoculars, telescope, star charts, Internet, a yard list
etcetera. Because of one thing - a battered binocular. The 'rest' did
surely follow. I have seen similar happenings many times.
I don't even remember the number of binoculars I have given
away. I think four of my old and
maybe 'technologically antiquated' models, and quite a
few that I bought at junk sales, trash and treasure, etc. (If I
can see through them OK, and focus OK, then $5 or $10 usually buys
So, my theory. Give children something
<magic> of their <own> to look <with>, and let them discover
what to look <at> (with some subtle hints).
Thanks for reading my soapbox meanderings. I may have
solved your Christmas gift(s) dilemma. = ;-)
Mount Pleasant SC 29464
'The desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world'.
Le Carre, Writer.