For the record, this is me at age 13. In addition to the Bushnell 7x35 binocular, notice the brown pants, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge bird t-shirt, K-Mart shoes. I'm holding my plastic-framed turn-dark-in-the-sun eyeglasses. In a word, I'm a geek.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you are too. Or you were. Being a teenage birder, it was clear that I was a geek. Then I grew up. After decades of hanging out with other birders, I almost started to think I was normal. Then I had kids and started hanging out with other parents. No, birding was not somehow more cool than it used to be. Even though 1 in 5 people enjoy watching birds, being a real birder is not cool.
Just look at us!
Again, for the record, I'm including myself here. Aren't we just a little too White and Birdy? ABA board member John Robinson has written about the need to reach out to non-white audiences in Birding for Everyone. How we doin' on that? Even among white folks, are we covering the demographics? Last I looked, ABA members were mostly upper middle class (and higher), with household incomes over twice the national average. Relatively, we make a lot of money. But we're still on the geeky side.
So, what to do? Can we make birding less geeky? The Big Year movie coming out next summer should give us another look at how the rest of America sees birders and birding.
Just for fun, what if more birders looked more like this?
I'm not saying birding has to be cool. But a bigger tent might make it a little more fun!