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Study Less of It

by Robin Tuck
February 1997

We see the phenomenon every time we lift our binoculars to our eyes. It is the same phenomenon astronomers have when they point a huge telescope toward the heavens, and biologists have when they focus a microscope at a tissue sample. What is this phenomenon? Simple, we see less of what we are looking at. The more we magnify something, the less of it we see.

Sometimes our vision is so crowded with things that we cannot see an individual item, much less its parts.

Our detail learning experiences come when we block everything else out and concentrate on the single item. We learn something of the goose by studying the flock, but there comes a time when we have to study the goose all by itself. In essence, we do this automatically. Our eyes focus on a single bird in the flock and we try to understand it, to see its shape, color and form.

And yet, when we return from our birding trips, the statistic we banter about is how many species we saw. We go out birding and to some degree leave what we learn to happenstance. Sure, we choose the habitat we head toward, but we are mostly opportunistic birders—we look at what’s there.

Study, with a capital "S", involves choosing beforehand what you want to learn, then omitting all else while that thing is studied. Seldom can we actually omit all else, but if we do limit our view, what we are seeing will be easier to comprehend.

Now, to put this idea into practice. Choose a particular bird you would really like to know more about, and read everything you can find about it. Take notes just as if you were studying for a test. Next, visit the local library and check their reference materials. Back issues of the birding magazines will be a great source for additional information, but be careful to only find what you are looking for. After you have found and read all you can about this bird, go and find one. Where and when do you look? Those are some of the things you learned by your study. So go where it is supposed to be and search one out. If that fails, look in another spot or seek some help, but find one. Then watch it and watch it. See it come and go. Determine where the nest is. Notice it’s song and where it sings from. Go back and see it more. Make it "your" bird.

If you do this, you will have studied less of birding and will have learned more about a bird.