How Birdwatching Changed My Life

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Osprey and Barn Owl feathers I got tattooed!

I’m sure many read that title and thought “uhm… what? How can looking at birds change someones life?” But hear me out…

Picture me, a person so detached from reality that I wasn’t even aware I was really depressed or anxious. I thought I just needed to finish school and get out of debt and i’d be okay. I spent all my spare time looking at my phone and thinking about the future. I was focused…. focused on what my life would look like after graduation or after I moved out of Miami or after I finally had a big butt and a six pack. Do you ever do this?

These are common thoughts that many young adults have. This is what society teaches us. Graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, get a job, buy a house, have a family, die. So more often than not, we just sit around waiting for these things because we believe it’s going to bring us happiness. This was my case. Waiting for something to bring me happiness.

So here I was, a college student who had just quit her job to finish school and FINALLY feel happy after that. The day after I quit my job I went on a road trip with my boyfriend and friends. We visited West Virginia where our campsite was pretty out there in the middle of nowhere. One morning, I woke up to my friend saying “Tasha! Wake up and come look at what’s outside your tent!). I get out and there’s a gorgeous Barred Owl flying from tree to tree in our campsite. After witnessing this curious bird maybe 10 feet away from me, I was hooked.

Fast forward a few months while I was taking Ecology of South Florida and learning about different ecosystems and species, I started venturing to wild places in search of birds. I knew I was birding but I didn’t know JUST how serious it was to me until I visited one of the best birdwatching sites in South Florida, STA 5/6.

STA 5/6 is a stormwater treatment area near Clewiston, FL that provides some of the best habitat for birds! Just on the drive there, we saw a Bobcat, Bald Eagles, Crested Caracaras, and a bunch of different hawk species. After this day, I never looked back and began birding every single week.

I’m sure you’re still wondering, okay well how does this change someone’s life? I’ll tell you how:

How Birdwatching Changed My Life

It forces you to put the phone down. 

You can’t look for wildlife while staring down at your phone or scrolling through instagram. You miss all the great birds doing this. While birdwatching all of your attention is on the trees or grass or water that you’re scanning for a few beaks.

It forces you to use all of your senses. 

When you’re looking for birds, you need to use all your senses. You need to look for flashes of feathers deep in the trees, you need to open your ears and hone in on that call you’ve never heard before. You need to feel where the wind is coming from so you can catch all the migrates that are being pushed to shore. If you want to do some active meditation, birdwatching is a good way to start!

It forces you to stay present.

You’re not thinking about what tasks need to get done at work while you’re birding. You’re focused on the birds and wildlife that you’re most probably listening to but can’t see. You’re forced to stay present and keep walking in the hopes that you’ll see 30+ species today. It’s an awesome way to focus on the now and not the things that possibly give you anxiety.

You spend most of your time outdoors.

Well… you’re not gonna find a lot of wild birds indoors are you? Birdwatching takes you to the wildest and most beautiful places, from beaches and islands to the arctic and old growth forests. If you want to start spending more time outdoors, birdwatching is your hobby. Not only will it give you the itch to travel more but even when you’re stuck in your hometown, you’ll want to go to a local park in the hopes that you’ll see a lifer!

You meet the weirdest and coolest people.

As with many odd ball hobbies…. you’re gonna meet some weird people! And these people…. have stories! Some have traveled to the very tip of Alaska in search for Russian or Asian birds that flew too West. Some have spent months in the Amazon and some have a lifetime of stories with a life list that could make you cringe (I know peeps who have seen 4,000 species of birds). I’m a huge introvert but when I’m birdwatching it pushes me to be super extroverted where I start conversations with complete strangers… and I’m happy to talk to them!

The point of this post is that birding came to me at the perfect time, where I was still an anxious wreck. After committing to birdwatching every week, I noticed a sense of calm within myself majority of the time. This was a huge improvement since I would randomly burst into tears from how anxious and depressed I was. I, myself, didn’t even know what was wrong with me. I thought I was crazy! I’m sure many people feel this way and I only want people who were in a similar situation to take control of their anxiety/life and feel pure happiness. Maybe it’s not birdwatching, but I’m sure there is a hobby you enjoy that can give you similar results!

Leave a comment below with a hobby that you’re thinking of pursuing! Let me know if you’ve ever had similar struggles and what you’ve done (or thinking of doing) to help yourself!

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30 Ways to be Eco-Friendly

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In the new world that is the United States of America today, I thought it would be a great opportunity to write this post. While our government is currently being filled with money hungry officials who truly have no regard for the environment, the species that inhabit this Earth, or the future of our food, climate, and livelihood, I think this is the perfect time to reflect on what YOU can do to create a better world for yourself and future generations.

I have compiled a list of ways to become more eco-friendly, both conventional and not so conventional ways. Personally, I do not do every single item on this list, but I do some and I plan on participating in more soon. Also, I am not saying you need to do everything on this list. Please find what speaks to you the most and GO FOR IT! If we sit around and wait for the government to make changes, nothing will happen. Start with one thing and once you’re comfortable, start another!

The people who are crazy enough to believe they can change the world… are the ones that do. So please, if you care about this Earth, make a change!

  1. Limit meat consumption, even if it’s just once a week or only cutting red meat. Anything helps! (Red meat tends to have a bigger impact on the environment.)
  2. Limit seafood consumption. Most seafood is harvested unsustainably and is filled with plastic. Also, most seafood is labeled as something else that may be high in mercury.
  3. Eat meat/seafood you’ve harvested or know the person who did! Ask questions about their methods.
  4. If you do eat meat/seafood, buy from a local! Again, ask questions about their methods. Visit the farm, see what kind of environment the animals live in, what they eat, etc.
  5. Refuse single use plastic. Buy a refillable water bottle, carry utensils, cloth napkin, stainless steel straw, container, and ask restaurants to use that instead!
  6. Avoid plastic altogether and go plastic free. Purchase glass/stainless steel everything! This lasts longer, doesn’t leach nasty chemicals into your food/body, and is better for the environment.
  7. Recycle, Reuse, Reduce! Buying items that are meant to be used once or that will break easy are a waste. Think about the oil, gas, chemicals, labor, etc. that was needed to create it before purchasing.
  8. Carry a cloth bag at all times to avoid single use plastic bags. Think plastic = OIL!
  9. Go zero waste!
  10. Clean up any trash you find.
  11. Bring your own coffee mug to the coffee shop instead of getting a to-go cup.
  12. Do research on ecotourism (zoo, aquarium, farm, etc.) before visiting. Not everyone has the best interests! Many of the attractions that seem to care about animals or the environment, really DON’T. Do your research! Remember, wild is always best but if the animal cannot be released back into the wild, ASK WHY BEFORE VISITING. Many are taken from the wild, drugged, etc.
  13. Visit national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, and LEARN ABOUT IT!
  14. Leave animals WILD, don’t hand feed any animal, and let nature BE. Admire from a safe distance.
  15. Turn off all electronics when not using.
  16. Refuse fast fashion and buy thrifted items or buy from a local and/or eco-friendly brand! Fast fashion not only harms the environment but exploits people and places. Ask where your shirts are made and BY WHO!
  17. Walk somewhere!
  18. Bike somewhere!
  19. Donate to an environmental organization.
  20. Compost. Don’t just throw away paper, cardboard, produce, make soil out it!
  21. Grow your own produce. Even if it’s a small herb garden on your window sill, you’re limiting the carbon dioxide emitted from transported food by growing our own!
  22. Buy local in season produce. Again, limiting carbon dioxide emitted from transporting food. Believe it or not, most of our food is grown overseas!
  23. Refuse palm oil! This is found is literally EVERYTHING, and is being grown unsustainable in Indonesia. What are they using to grow palm fruits to make the oil? AN ENDANGERED RAINFOREST. This rainforest is the last place on Earth that has orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants. Download the Palm Oil app which will tell you if the product you’re about to buy features sustainable palm oil!
  24. Buy rainforest alliance coffee. Find more info. here.
  25. Buy bird friendly coffee. Find more info. here.
  26. Go birding! (yep, I went there.)
  27. Learn about your local ecosystems.
  28. Volunteer to clean up a park, beach, etc.
  29. Volunteer at a national park, wildlife refuge, rehab center, etc.
  30. Contact government officials about environmental concerns. While many think this won’t do much, the more people who voice their opinions, the more likely we will see change. I have contacted my state senator more times than I am proud to say and I don’t plan on stopping.

I hope this list inspires some type of change! If you have any methods to be eco-friendly, please share with me in a comment below!