Lin develops love for birdwatching, builds family bond

Ethan Woelbern, Staff Writer

Binoculars in hand, Ethan Lin (12) stood patiently on the banks of the San Elijo Lagoon. In the grey of early morning, the only sounds that filled the air were the calls of the local fowl. Five feet before him skittered a small bird, no bigger than a robin, in the wet sand. It was a killdeer. Its breast was barred by two black bands and its long tail was colored in rust. It bobbed its every few steps before sending a singular falsetto note into the fog. 

“It stayed where it was for a few minutes and I was able to admire its beauty from up close,” Lin said. “The killdeer has pretty loud and sharp calls so all my senses were focused on that one bird. I was hearing it, staring at it, amazed by it.”

Although not a rare bird by any means, this killdeer was still something special to Lin.

“Bird-watchers have this thing called lifers,” Lin said. “When you see a certain bird for the first time in your life, that’s your lifer. When I saw the killdeer that day I got super excited because it was my first time ever seeing onel.” 

Since his childhood, nature has always played a big role in Lin’s life. His earliest memories were made up of countless weekends spent fishing and hiking with his father. Still, it was not until his eleventh grade Science Olympiad that Lin began to grow an interest in birds.

“In one of the events, there were these bird quizzes where they gave you a picture of a bird, and then you had to identify it,” Lin said. “It was designed like a video game and for every milestone of correct answers, you got a badge with a certain bird on it.”

 This virtual addiction translated into a passion for the real birds Lin saw throughout his daily routine, and the love of nature he shared with his father fueled this interest into a way for them to grow together not only as father and son, but also as friends.

“My dad gave me a pair of binoculars, which allowed me to actually start looking for birds in real life,” Lin said. “At home, I usually connect more with my mom since her work is more relevant to the stuff I want to do in the future. But when I go birdwatching, it feels like the best way for me to connect with my dad, because he is just as excited about seeing birds as I am. We once saw a great Ygritte eating a fish while we were birdwatching. And I was like, Oh my gosh, this is so cool. And it was awesome because my dad had the same reaction.”

Lin’s passion has not only helped him grow closer to his father but also given him an outlet to deal with chaos created by a rigorous circular schedule. The stress brought by College Applications and AP classes slides to the back of Lin’s mind as he peers through the lenses of his binoculars that keep him focused on his birds.

“Birdwatching brings me a sense of tranquility,” Lin said. “When I’m focused on birds, I don’t have to think about whatever else is going on. I don’t know too much about how meditation works, but from what I know I’d compare birdwatching to it. Birdwatching just helps me take my mind off of literally everything else that is going on in my life. When I see birds I am completely ‘in the moment’ focusing on nothing else but the bird.”