The Art of Seeing

Hummingbird“There are more hummingbirds in my backyard than on that trail,” complained one irate tourist exiting the Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon. “You should not tell people they will see birds,” she remarked as the door closed behind her, unhappy the experience did not merit the $5 admission fee.

Now that my expectations had been lowered (I had driven four hours to see hummers), I was overjoyed to walk six steps from the visitor center and spot a broad-billed hummingbird (a lifer for me), sitting on a golf-ball sized nest.

How did I manage to spot this amazing spectacle while another person walked the same path minutes earlier and saw nothing?

Perhaps it is because I have been lucky to spend many hours wildlife viewing, some of it with the world’s best guides, and I have learned to see what I am looking at. Our smartphones and IPads deliver information with little effort. Mother Nature does not have a Web 2.0 version!

So how you become better at observing your environment? Like any other skill, it benefits from practice. Taking time to sit, listen and watch will sharpen your powers of observation like nothing else. As I sat and looked at an ‘empty’ bird feeder, several people paused for a second, commented on the fact “there was nothing around” before walking on. If they had been practicing the art of seeing, they might have enjoyed the dual between the magnificent hummingbird and its rival, the bright-blue broad-billed hummer that was occurring between the times when nothing was happening.

If you are a business owner, how do can you help your visitors develop the art of seeing? The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) holds hummingbird-banding event each week at the Caso de San Pedro Bed and Breakfast. This event is popular with B&B guests and other tourists, and scientists demonstrate good observation skills and make it easier for nature newbies to see wildlife. To learn more about this program visit www.sabo.org.

Is there a way you can help your visitors see more?

For video on the hummingbird banding clinics and the birds I saw while practicing the art of seeing, go to http://bit.ly/YE6kdK

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