A Heightened Sense of Awareness

Yesterday’s picture of the avocet chasing away the Wilson’s Phalarope reminded me of a phenomena I have experienced several times: you’re totally focused on one bird for quite a while and suddenly you notice other birds that you had entirely missed. It seems to be a corollary of the rule that the best way to bird is simply to stand silently in one place and the birds will come to you. I think both are related to a heightened sense of awareness. Too often we get caught up in our thoughts and ignore what’s happening around us.

In this case I was focused on getting shots of the American Avocets, the birds I had come to photograph. Until the avocet lunged at the Wilson’s Phalarope, I hadn’t even seen them, and it wasn’t until my attention shifted that I noticed there was more than one phalarope,


the out-of-focus female Wilson’s Phalarope in the lower left-hand portion of the picture. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even see it when I took this photograph.

I probably didn’t see it until it began to come into focus as the male phalarope landed.


Once I knew they were there, I shifted focus and got this shot of the pair,


perhaps the first shot I have ever gotten of a pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes.

Of course, once I was aware that the phalaropes were in this area, I noticed them right away while birding the area the next door,


though I might well have missed seeing the pair again if I hadn’t expected them to be there.

The transformation from a back-yard bird watcher to an experienced birder has been an interesting one for me. I’m still amazed at all the birds I’ve seen nearby that I missed seeing for the first sixty years of my life and wonder how I could ever have been so unaware of my surroundings.

Of course, I would like to think that taking up birding has increased my awareness in other areas, too, but maybe I’ve just tuned out other channels of information so I can focus on one that I enjoy more.

4 thoughts on “A Heightened Sense of Awareness”

  1. Wonderful seeing those Wilson’s Phalaropes. I think we learn, as we get older and have the time, to focus on what brings us joy and tune out some of the stuff that doesn’t. It doesn’t always work. Other channels of information do intrude, but looking for the things that spark our interests and enliven our spirits has a great feedback loop!

    1. I’d certainly agree. Birding has brought me a lot of joy since I retired. I’ve always enjoyed birds at the feeder and in the yard, but birding added a whole new dimension to the pleasure I got from just watching birds that visited my house.

  2. I agree with everything you’ve written here. What’s kind of interesting to me is that my awareness of, and interest in birds was brought about by the camera, a cool “toy” that I needed something to use it for! Birds being one of them, but also bringing awareness of birds to me.

    1. I certainly started with the camera long before I took up birding. I bought my SLR in Vietnam.

      When I started trying to get bird pictures, I soon realized that my old equipment wasn’t up to the task. So birding has certainly revived my interest in camera equipment.

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