It was only a matter of time.The weighty question on so many of our (Baby boomer) minds has been, “what was it truly going to take to get kids to play outside again?’
|Migratory Black and White Warbler|
Children born to those of us currently in our middle 50s grew up battling the temptation to sit like lumps in front of a screen instead of exploring their world outdoors. Technology came on like gangbusters in the mid 1990s with generation after generation of improvements geared towards making the gaming experience more robust and in turn; all-consuming. Friendships needed to evolve from cooperative play to parallel play and then to remote-cooperative in parallel play. Screens became bigger and bigger, and then smaller and smaller. Graphics starting at an amazing 8-bit have now evolved into high definition and beyond. All these “improvements” seemed to have sequestered a great segment of young-humanity to their basements with the shades pulled, doors locked, and ovens loaded with high-carb pizza rolls. Kid’s muscles began to slowly atrophy while their tummies quickly expanded. Combine this addictive “leisure” activity with the common, every day, and every time method of communication known as texting; and there remained virtually no reason to ever leave the home.
Meanwhile on the other side of the spectrum are traditional activities that have involved being outdoors, using the large muscle groups, and dealing with the elements. For decades; team and individual sports played merely for enjoyment or competitively have occupied the masses, from backyard games of Red Rover to Little league baseball. In terms of hobbies that involve getting out of the house; hunting, fishing, hiking and biking have always offered great diversion. City, county and municipal parks have offered those individuals the chance to get away from it all in a serene setting; while enjoying all that nature had to offer. As an avid watcher of birds; I relish the opportunity to walk amongst the beauty of the outdoors while seeking my next interesting avian sighting.
It was on this particular Sunday in September while in Lake Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront for a morning bird-hike when it hit me. There were young parents pushing strollers, groups of teens, pairs of bros, young couples, old people, fat people, and geeky people methodically roaming over the landscape in search of something only they could see on their electronic devices. But; they were OUTside doing it in a communal sense. As I looked around me at the ever-growing masses of fair-weather humans; all slow-walking, staring down at their cell phones and iPads: I realized in that moment that I’ve been “tryin’ to catch ‘em all” long before Pokémon Go ever became a thing!
Suddenly it was clear. Anyone who had ever wondered about what I might be up to all decked out in drab clothing, brimmed hat, binoculars strapped on, and carrying a book was now putting themselves out there to pursue something that brought them their own kind of joy.
I guess the only question I have for any of my fellow birding enthusiasts, as well as the bicyclists, hikers, joggers, and runners, that enjoy Lake Park or any other outdoor venue is; "are you OK with sharing your space with this new breed of hobbyists?" I personally answer; emphatically "YES!" I say, let them capture their elusive Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Megapod and Charizard in their own world of fantasy and wonder as I continue to seek additions to my own life-list of oddly-named avian species.
It's no weirder, no less consuming and no less enjoyable...it's just different. And hey...I finally captured (uh, sighted) my first Yellow-billed cuckoo today! Hell yes! Oh...I know...how about Pikachu VS Black-capped chickadee on a Poke'-Birde' Battle? Birde'mon-TAStic!
|The elusive Yellow-Billed Cuckoo - CAPTURED!|
Today's list of sightings:
- Red-bellied woodpecker
- Bay-breasted warbler
- Black and white warbler
- Dark-eyed junco
- Yellow-rumped warbler
- Red-breasted nuthatch
- Gray-cheeked thrush
- Black-capped chickadee
- Canada Goose
- Double-crested cormorant
- Chipping sparrow
- House sparrow
- Downy Woodpecker