The New York Times is surprised that there are health benefits to birdwatching, an activity that includes all of the following:

  • time outside in nature
  • walking and hiking
  • learning a new vocabulary
  • learning new skills
  • introducing you to new people
  • taking you to new places

Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice to have newspapers encouraging people to notice birds, to care that we conserve habitat for them, and to participate in Christmas Bird Counts. If it takes a health payoff for people to do any of those things, it can’t hurt to trumpet the benefits to the mind and soul of birdwatching. But what is surprising to me is that it is surprising to the New York Times that a hobby that gets people away from their screens and out walking around is good for you. I can’t wait for their next installment — the surprising social awkwardness of nerds who stare at the world through binoculars.

Even more perplexing was the caption to one of the photos in the article, which appears to understand a “big year” not as an attempt to see as many bird species as you can see in 12 months in a particular place (the universal definition of a “big year” for all birders), but as seeing 300 species or more in 12 months. That’s nice work, be the location the country, a state, a county, or a 5MR. But it’s not what birders mean when they say someone did a “big year.”