I'll say it again: Beginner's pride
Did I miss the test that would qualify me as a birder? Is there a peer review board that I should meet soon?
Doesn't almost everyone in the birding community "call themselves birders"? We append that label to ourselves based on the enjoyment of observing birds. No doubt WildBird's Advisory Board members and knowledgeable writers called themselves birders before anyone else recognized them as such.
It does, however, take some of us longer than others to publicize our affinity for birding. For many years, I've called myself "an editor who works on a birding magazine." My affinity for words and pictures preceded my active observation of birds, and I didn't want others to presume an inaccurate level of knowledge on my part.
Recently, the label "novice birder" began to feel appropriate. After seven years of working on the magazine, learning scads of details, attending festivals and events around the country and observing birds in day-to-day life, I promoted myself.
Some generous individuals actually question the "novice" portion of that self-appellation, but I'm not embarrassed to use it. Everyone in the birding community was a beginner at some point, even today's experts.
We all have to start at the beginning, usually with backyard species. Some of us then race to increase our knowledge so that we can describe ourselves as "intermediate" and "advanced" as soon as possible.
More power to those folks! No doubt they're having fun during their quest for more observations and information.
I'm certainly having fun as a novice birder and am not alone in that respect. This community encompasses a huge number of novices--and it relies on beginners to renew and grow its ranks.
Many of those beginners eventually share their passion for birding and educate the general public about the value of habitat conservation. In other words, the community relies on know-nothings who call themselves birders while they become know-somethings!
(This originally appeared as the Editor's Note in the March/April 2006 issue.)