The Bubba Birdwatching Philosophy

For Elbert, birdwatching is another way to relate to life. He says it's a different, more graceful path that makes living enjoyable and its problems easier to solve.

I find my entertainment by not limiting my observations to birds alone but including birdwatchers. Elbert calls it "Bubba style". Watching birdwatchers has revealed more to me about human behavior than birding techniques. I've resolved the greatest discovery of the human will be that a human being can alter its life by altering its attitude.

Elbert said, "One of the cardinal rules of "Bubba Birdwatching" should be that judging others takes a great deal of energy and, without exception, pulls you away from where you want to be."

I think he doesn't understand. Being a bird dog is probably an advantage for me. In my search for "Birding Truth," I have discovered many opinions - and if they don't fall in line with my belief, I try not to dismiss it or if I find fault in it, I try to see a positive side. For example, "The Aggressive-Compulsive Lister". I admire them for how seriously they can take themselves.

In my adventures I've run into quite a few with this birding malady, a personality that seems to polarize "Bubba Birdwatching". They go about recording details, listing and counting as if they were in a birdwatching emergency. In some ways this strategy epitomizes the essential message of "Bubba style". It is as if someone prescribed to them birdwatching as an anti-anxiety medicine and their medication is out of adjustment. The human trait of being in a hurry to relax has always confused me. The aggressive-compulsive birder wants to see that bird now! So they can get onto the next one and the next, then hurry back to the lodge to write them down on the "life list".

Elbert said, "Almost every opinion has some merit, especially if we are looking for merit, rather than looking for errors," and I should try to help them with their birding enjoyment by showing them value in "Bubba Birdwatching".

There are three excellent reasons for becoming a "Bubba Birder". First, when you are aggressive you put yourself and everyone around you in an uncomfortable birding mood. Second, birding aggressively is extremely stressful. Your blood pressure goes up, your grip on the binoculars tightens, your eyes are strained and your thoughts are spinning out of control. Finally, you end up wasting time getting to where you want to be emotionally.

"Bubba Birdwatching" is done to relax. When I ask birders, what does it mean to relax? Most will answer in a way that suggests relaxing is something you plan to do later - you will do it on vacation, in a hammock, when you retire or when you get through birdwatching. The obvious implication is the rest of your time should be spent nervous, agitated, rushed and frenzied. This is not the "Bubba way".

It's useful to think of relaxation as a quality of heart that you can access anytime rather than something reserved for a later time. It's helpful to remember that relaxed people can still be birdwatching super achievers. When I'm feeling uptight, for example, I don't even try to write. But when I feel relaxed, my writing flows quickly and easily.

Being a "Bubba Birder" involves training yourself to respond differently to the dramas of birdwatching. It comes, in part, from reminding yourself over and over again that you have a choice in how you respond. For instance, upon seeing a new and unusual bird, one can run crashing through the jungle trying to focus the binoculars, looking for a pencil, and looking it up in Peterson's all at the same time or be a true Bubba and simply whisper, "Wow, did you see that?" This plateau is achievable. You can learn to relate to your thinking as well as your circumstances in a new birding awareness. With practice, making these choices will translate into your becoming a true "Bubba Birder".

Birds of Ambergris Caye

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