If Bird Watching is the Chase, Taking Pictures is the Catch

I’ve been familiar with the phrase “thrill of the chase” for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been curious as to why we chase. Whether or not you catch the object of your desire, why exactly is chasing things and perhaps even catching some so thrilling?

I recently watched the History Channel’s “How the Earth Made Man.” A documentary about the evolution of why we get hiccups? Goosebumps? Enjoy playing sports? Can’t help but see images of faces in random patterns? Startle awake when first falling asleep? Sign. Me. Up.

About half way through the show during a segment about primal hunting instincts , it was explained that:

“Today, other remnants of our primal lives as hunters live on.” – Narrator

“Something you see across animal species is that whatever that animal needs to do to survive is generally something that that animal takes pleasure in. For us today that means that we still take pleasure in the actions of hunting, like throwing, like hitting, like even playing a first person shooter video game today.” – Jeff Wise, Science Writer

“It’s in the activities we enjoy today that we see a primal link to skills that once meant survival.” – Narrator

For me, this little revelation killed two birds with one stone, so to speak. Not only did I have an explanation as to why a chase can be so captivating, but why bird watching may be so alluring to so many people: food.

Arden at window bird watching

I swear I’m not fixin’ to catch you and eat you.

I enjoy reading about and hearing about why others enjoy bird watching. There are so many perspectives as to the personal enjoyment and reward that other birders get from watching feathered friends, but it would seem that we all share the desire to essentially chase them, likely resulting in just observing them or snapping photos (and I hope that’s where it ends).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve executed some pretty stealthy acrobatics through the house in order to go undetected from window to window just to observe a bird on our deck. Is primal-me whispering in my subconscious to catch dinner? I hadn’t made that connection before but it makes all the sense in world now. A few million years and a well-stocked pantry of snacks later, I now just want to feast with my eyes. You can take the primal (wo)man out of the hunt…

Still, so many of us do see the hunt through with our stories and pictures and collections. This must be why we congratulate fellow hunters with remarks like, “Great capture!” on a crisp photo of a bird. I understand now why spotting a bird outside and getting a great picture is so thrilling. It is the rewarding feeling of “I gotcha!”

I celebrate that feeling by keeping a number of bird related “trophies” like trinkets, knickknacks, and artwork around the house. The number of photos of birds from around town in our personal albums are second only to the dog. They allow me to reflect fondly upon so many victorious encounters, satisfying both primal-me (me want food) and modern-me (I want these fascinating creatures in my world, all the time).

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