Don't get me wrong… I enjoy birding in groups. Every time a rarity shows up, it's a good chance to see some old friends, and chat for hours. Occasionally I even enjoy the company (and humor) of an Audubon trip. And there is nothing better than a group of friends sitting on top of a peak, surrounded by the golden/crimson hues of a brisk fall day, and watching hawks float by. Over the years, I've met some great birders and good people, and I thoroughly enjoy their company.
I grew up in a small town on a good amount of land. On that land, we had a Crab Apple tree that attracted Waxwings in the winter, we had a marsh that had some Blackbirds, Sunflowers grew wild and fed numerous Goldfinch, Sandhill Cranes would visit the agricultural stubble in the fall and spring, and every winter a Bald Eagle sat atop a fifty foot dead Cottonwood tree right outside our back porch. Right there on our land, I saw the biggest Mule Deer buck I've ever seen.
My grandma gave me a pair of binoculars, my parents gave me a Swiss Army knife, I made a bow and arrow out of willows, and I had everything I needed to explore the fields, marshes and woods. I set up a tree fort in a cottonwood, and made a ground shelter out of the willows on the edge of the marsh. Every day after school, I'd do a little exploring, and I'd camp out there on warm nights. In the winters I'd cross country ski across the land and ice skate across the frozen marsh. Our land (and a couple joints in high school) taught me a lot about myself. I learned to love being alone, and I learned to love exploring everything that nature offers us.
I'm getting to a point in my life where I'm doing everything I can to get back to my roots.
For the past two years, I've had the privilege of getting paid to do a lot of solo birding. During those two years, I've worked in some of the most remote locations in Utah. I wasn't hanging around eBird hotspots, surrounded by other birders, looking at a first state record, all while keeping a meticulous list. I was mostly camping in the backcountry, without cell phone service, and I'd see the same common birds every day. I learned invaluable information about Black-Throated Gray Warblers, Western Scrub-Jays, and Blue Gray Gnatcatchers (which I think are the most diverse birds in the state).
When birding, I like to hike, climb, snowshoe, and ski, take back roads, and discover new places. Mainly, I like to explore. I like to take long looks at birds, and learn something new every time I'm out. I really enjoy learning things from the land & getting back to being a child again; trust me, you won't regret acting like an 11 year old when exploring the Utah backcountry. I can sit down, listen to the growling of a Spotted Towhee and eat an apple without worrying about a rarity around the corner. I can go off on tangents and look for arrowheads for while. I can sit down and meditate under gnarled Juniper Tree. Every time I go out I try to learn as much about myself as I learn about the world around me.
It's not that I don't enjoy the company of others when birding, it's just that the company of others distracts me from what I really do enjoy about birding.