The one thing that is necessary to overcome is the self-conscious fear of looking flat out weird, I have taken this to heart and put it into practice.
Studies say hummingbirds have heart rates that average over 1,000 beats per minute; I think my heart probably came near that the instant I first spotted a female hummer sitting on her nest earlier this spring. Later I found that what I had seen was a female Anna’s Hummingbird, the only year-round hummingbird resident here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been just over a month since stumbling upon the nest. In the time since, I’ve become an Amateur Anna’s Hummingbird Ornithologist, or in simpler terms, a hummingbird FREAK.
There. I’ve said it, and frankly, I’m not afraid to admit my oddity. If someone asked me what the average maximum velocity of a male Anna’s Hummingbird during it’s “courtship dive,” I would happily inform them it is 385 body-lengths/second. Equally, if someone were to ask me how the heck I knew this, I would probably answer: too much time spent obsessing. But I like to shed a positive light on my peculiar interest—formally, I prefer to call myself an amateur naturalist, and I speculate that everyone is one of these in some form or another.
There some things in nature that make me scratch my head in bewilderment and make me feel overwhelmed and jittery with excitement. I believe we are all naturalists, and the great thing about being one is that it doesn’t require us to possess indubitable knowledge, but rather only suggests we all pursue what interests us about the natural world. For now, my natural-world-niche is hummingbirds.
I admit I was a little slow to pursue my hummingbird mania; there was something that I just couldn’t get over. The thing is, hummingbirds are small, very small, and they are very hard to track due to their minuscule size and their twitchy maneuvers and agility (I joke that they’re jacked up from a sugar-high due to the amounts of nectar they consume). Because of this, in order to track down hummingbirds on my college campus, I spend much of my time chasing something that is seemingly invisible. If you didn’t know what to listen for and where to spot them (which, as it turns out, most people don’t), then I’m sure I probably looked very odd running around campus with my camera and eyes fixed towards the sky. After a short time of doing this in public, I imagine I was beginning to develop a reputation.
I would try to share my eccentric hobby with my friends, and from these attempts I received an array of distorted facial expression and responses that all sum up the words, “you’re kind of weird.” I know it was all out of love though. I was beginning to wonder if people thought I was a circus act as they walked passed me on campus, casting curious glances towards me during my antics and frequently asking me what I was looking at. “Hummingbirds,” I would reply, “I’m following hummingbirds.” That usually marked the end of our short-lived conversation, and they moved on just as puzzled about my behavior as they were before.
I reached a point when I gave up on feeling self-conscious about how weird I looked in front of friends and complete strangers. Instead I began to find interest in other aspects of the biodiversity in the Seattle area. I began to follow other birds and animals and found appreciation for plants and trees in the area. My hummingbird craze was far from diminishing, but my naturalism was becoming more well-rounded.
One day I was talking to a professor -also a fellow birder -and she left me with a piece of wisdom that I have carried since. This new manifesto reflected my true passion for the natural world. . She told me this: that as a naturalist, a birder, and general nature enthusiast, the one thing that is necessary to overcome is the self-conscious fear of looking flat out weird. I have taken this to heart and put it into practice.
Recently, I was kneeling in a garden that borders the edge of campus and a busy road, with my camera in one hand and my iPhone, playing the iBird app in the other. in attempt to lure a male Anna’s that was roosting in a nearby tree. It dawned on me that this scenario embodied the advice that had been bestowed upon me by my professor because the odd looks from passing cars and people seemed completely irrelevant, I was just too caught up in a moment of exhilaration to care!
Perhaps some of you reading this are very much aware of your natural passions, whether it be sketching pastel landscapes that grip your heart or writing poems about the tall Oak that remains rooted into your backyard and memories. Perhaps you share your interests of the natural world with others, or maybe they are solely for your personal satisfaction. To that I say: embrace what intrigues you and pursue it even if you appear comical to others. For those who haven’t found their niche, I say keep searching relentlessly! From our own backyards to the greatest of national parks, these places are saturated with opportunities to learn and love nature in our own individual fashions. We are all naturalists.
I am a student at Seattle University, Environmental Studies Major. I have been pursuing photography since the beginning of my freshman year. I use it as a medium for wildlife and nature conservation and awareness, and to just show others what I see.