July 10 marks the (approximate) three-year anniversary of I and the Bird, a blog carnival for all things birdy. Originally started by Mike of 10,000 Birds, he has hosted all three anniversary editions, as well. Each anniversary he’s challenged contributors to write on a theme. The first aniversary theme had bloggers discuss “why they bird, blog, and/or blog about birds,” while the second asked contributors “why their blogs were must-read material.” Many of the contributors who were part of those first couple of years are still writing today, and so it follows that this year’s anniversary question is “Why are you still bird blogging?”
This is an excellent question for people who have been at it for three (or more!) years. Blogging, for most people (at least the blogs I follow), is not a casual thing. Some people do have very easy-to-maintain blogs where they simply post a photo and a few words about it, or links to news stories, or such things like that. I think the majority of the nature bloggers I follow, though, spend considerably more time on their blogs than that. For instance, the average post on my blog takes me about an hour or two, depending on how much research goes into it. Even the “easy” posts, the ones where you know everything or you’re just talking about a trip you took, or that sort of thing, posts where all it takes is some image selection/editing/resizing and a bit of free association, those posts will still usually take at least half an hour start-to-finish. This is a fairly substantial time commitment that one has to make to a blog.
My blog is young, only half a year old at this point. I think the qualifier “still” in “why am I still bird blogging?” hasn’t come to apply yet. I haven’t reached that stage that I think all bloggers inevitably go through of feeling a little tired of the time requirements involved in making frequent, thoughtful posts. The blog is still new, still fun and interesting. Who knows, perhaps it will always be that way, only time will tell. The qualifier “bird” in the question is also only loosely applied to this blog, since, while I do regularly talk about birds or bird observations, they make up only a small portion of my diverse subject matter.
I did used to update a more personal blog, one that I called my “bird journal”, which wasn’t shared with the general public but was instead mostly intended to share my birding exploits with other people I knew. I started that journal in January 2004. Initially I posted frequently to it, sometimes nearly every day. Over time, the frequency of my updates dwindled, until I was only posting once every week or two. My last post there was November 2007, after which I went into winter hiatus, when I tend to post infrequently because I’m simply not out birding a lot, and then started up this blog in the new year. The journal still exists in the blogosphere, but hasn’t been updated since.
Something that this blog has that my other one didn’t is a readership. With my old journal, I had perhaps a dozen or so people who followed it regularly, nearly all friends, and I was essentially writing to them. It was a “hey, here’s what I’ve been up to lately” sort of thing, like sending out the annual letter with your Christmas cards only on a more day-to-day basis. Birding trip reports, documentation of interesting sightings, that sort of thing. I wrote to it partially to keep people updated, partially as a record for myself to look back on later. There was no sense of community in that journal. With this one I feel like I’m actually reaching out to a community of like-minded individuals.
Blackburnian and I are moving on from the research station after many good years there, and the volunteers threw us a farewell party. They’re all great people, the volunteers are, and I’m going to miss them. The party’s organizer made an informal speech about each of us, and in mine he called me a teacher; I’m a person who enjoys sharing things with others, seeing their enthusiasm about new things, watching people learn and grow. I’ve come to this realization slowly, but this is true. I love sharing information and teaching people who are likewise keen to learn and interested in the subject. In some ways I could see myself becoming a teacher, except it would need to be in a forum where all my students were there because they were interested and wanted to be, rather than in public school or such where you’ll have some students who are interested, but many more who are there just because they have to be. Perhaps someday, when I know more, I could lead nature walks or something like that.
The point of saying all that, though, is that that’s the reason I’m blogging. That’s the primary reason I started up this blog in the first place – it just seemed to me that there was so much cool stuff out there that you never know about till someone shares it with you, and I wanted to find it and share it. It helps that I love to write. My best friend and I have an on-going in-joke about the length of our emails (which were very rarely less than a couple thousand words). I’m sure even reading this post you can pick up on that – I could probably have summed it up in a single paragraph or less, but the words just flow out from my fingertips. Plus, I feel that any story can be summed up in a line or two, but there’s always more to the story than that, and it’s way more interesting than a single sentence can do justice to. “This is a Box Elder Bug that was laying eggs on a leaf” does accurately sum up the basic observation of this post – but aren’t the several additional paragraphs about the circumstances of its observation and its life histories and such much more interesting?
So why am I (still) (bird) blogging? To share my enthusiasm for nature and all the cool, wild, interesting, bizarre, beautiful, ugly and serene things in it. And knowing that other people are enthusiastic about and learning from what I’m writing about, too, is reward enough for me.