Of Birding, Computer Pinball, and Insanity

Before shutting down my computer for the night, I sometimes play the video pinball game that came with the machine. Typically, I score about 400,000 points. On rare occasions, I have scored around 4 million points, through no skill or knowledge of my own. Last night, I scored 8,166,000 points, again, through no control on my part.

And what does this have to do with birding? The experience was actually amazingly similar. How many times have you walked through the same patch of woods looking for a bird you haven’t seen before? Experience tells you what species are likely to be at that location, just as experience tells me what my pinball score will likely be. But you keep hoping for something different, and sometimes, you get lucky.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But that is exactly what birders do. We cover the same birding sites over and over, year after year, hoping for something different. It is that hope that keeps us going. If we accepted the likelihood that each trip to a given site will produce the same species, we would be less likely to go into the field. It is the insanity of expecting something different that makes birding such a joy.

I approached this nest box at Hart Mountain with the expectation, or at least hope, of finding a Flamulated Owl. Instead, this large nest box was occupied by a pair of Mountain Chickadees.

Pelagic birding is the epitome of insanity. You cover hundreds of square miles of open ocean, hoping to run across a rare bird that just happens to be at the same spot you are. Here are two Laysan Albatrosses swimming with the abundant Black-footed Albatrosses off the Oregon coast.

Am I insane for engaging in this hobby/sport/avocation/obsession that we know as birding? Heck yes, and loving it.

One thought on “Of Birding, Computer Pinball, and Insanity

  1. Great Blog! I’ve been selling real estate in Bend Oregon since 1981 and just started birding about 4 years ago. We’re lucky enough to have a pair of nesting Lewis Woodpeckers in a nest box in our back yard close to the river. It was put up by Dean Hale of the East Cascade Bird Conservancy. Good birding!


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