Guest Author - Kimberly Weiss
First of all, Iíd like to apologize to my 200 or so fans who regularly read my column for my laxness in writing the past few months. When I first became the birding editor in November 2009, I was unemployed and had a lot of time to dedicate to birding and writing about birds. Now that I am working again, I havenít had much time either to bird or write.
One thing Iíve noticed is that many dedicated birders are senior citizens. In the movie
ďThe Big Year,Ē one of the characters was over 65. In real life, two of the three birders were. Most of the birders I see around are retirees as well, as are most of the members of the nature club Iíve recently joined. I actually feel self-conscious at times, being so ďyoungĒ (and young is a relative term--according to the media hipsters, for example, Iím pretty old).
Birding can be an enjoyable hobby for retirees. They can be the best birders, as they are not working or usually raising small children. Still, there are some inherent dangers. Here are some tips for older birders:
Consider smaller binoculars. Binoculars can be very heavy around the neck, and could cause an osteoarthritis flare up. If you must have larger binoculars, invest in a comfortable strap. If you have a spotting scope, consider pulling it on some sort of wagon, so as to not hurt your back.
Stay on established trails. Anyone can fall and hurt themselves birding, but it is more dangerous an older person who may have brittle bones. You donít want to be like the woman whoís ďFallen and Canít Get Up!Ē
Donít go birding alone. For all the reasons listed in #2. If you do, make sure someone you tell someone and carry a cell phone.
Protect your eyes. If itís sunny, wear dark sunglasses. Sunlight contributes to both cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of blindness in the elderly.
Donít overlook low impact nature sites. The Edward Forsythe Refuge in Brigantine New Jersey,has a drive-up birding trail. People rarely leave their car when they get fast food or go the bank these days. Why not bird from your car as well? Iím sure there are other driving trails in other states and countries as well. Another good option for older birders would be a pelagic trip. While some go out to where the waves are high and the seas are rough, many others stick closer to shore and shouldnít cause major motion sickness in most people. The puffin-watching trip in Maine that I went on in 2009 was a smooth ride, for example. Many marshes and bayou areas have small boat rides that remain on calm, fresh water.
Get a bird feeder. For those who may be recovering from surgery like a hip replacement or knee replacement and really canít walk around, watching birds from a feeder is a pretty good substitution. Itís better than television.
Although it may become harder to do physical activities after 65, birding is a fun activity for people of all ages. Happy Birding.