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by Robin Tuck
December 1997

I became a programmer in the military, back when people didn’t know it was possible to actually own a computer. When I was discharged, I went to college, programming part-time at a bank. One day while discussing my four years’ experience, my manager bluntly asked me if I had four years’ experience or one year’s experience four times. I did not feel wanted there and left upon graduation.

But the question was a good one, one we should probably ask ourselves. I have been an active birder for about eight years now and I wonder if I actually have a good eight years’ experience. Perhaps I am hard on myself, but it seems I am baffled all the time by the same old birds. Some days I feel "learning impaired."

I wonder if this is because of how I approach birding. I bird because I enjoy looking at/for birds and being with other birders, most notably, my wife. I have not been birding to increase my knowledge of birds. Sure, some knowledge rubs off and sticks to me, but it wasn’t because I sought it.

I think it is time to focus on learning and go birding with a goal, to get some real experience. Why don’t you join me and choose some aspect of birding to learn about. I think I have been confused by sparrows long enough, so, sparrows, here I come. I’m going to focus and learn and get some useful experience.