February 2018

Vol. 46, No. 1

Musings from the Blind Birder: Losing One’s Senses

Martha Steele

Birding arguably uses our two most desirable senses: vision and hearing. It is probably fair to say that when we start birding, nearly all of us have excellent vision and hearing and we soon learn to make the most of these senses in finding and identifying birds. As we age, however, one or both of these senses may begin to desert us, with potentially profound consequences for our enjoyment of and confidence in birding.

Our ability to accept and adjust to declining sensory information will affect the quality of our birding experiences. It will also determine how we feel about ourselves as birders. For a lifelong birder, expert at locating birds with sharp vision and identifying species by songs with excellent hearing, reduced visual acuity or hearing loss at high pitches may lead to embarrassment in front of those seeing and hearing what he or she can no longer see or hear. It takes a lot of self-confidence to either respond to sensory loss with helpful devices or by recognizing one's visual or hearing limitations and accepting help from other birders in the field.

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