People can be strangers. Even the ones we know and love. They can be empty in places that we aren’t, which can lead to miscommunication. False expectations and heartbreaks.
Birds make for much more reliable companions. It doesn’t matter that their calls are lost in translation to our ears. We can still understand and respect them. In turn, they will trust us enough to share their lives. At least a few special moments. As long as we go out birding with a good heart and a sound mind, we will be loved in some amount of loose change.
Birds will never vaguely and cruelly disappoint us. They will recognize the efforts that we put in (bad weather notwithstanding). Many have written about what these efforts should constitute. Nick Upton makes some great points. Jesse Greenspan opines on safety while birding. Cara Byington’s piece on hidden hazards in birding is a gem of a rib-tickler.
I started birding without having a clue. I had gone about it by myself without neither a plan nor a strong enough inclination to learn about birding. Waking up early and keeping silent comprised my entire modus operandi. It took me about a year to gain some amount of confidence that there was perhaps a chance that I had picked up enough skills to call myself a birder.
Now I have these amateur birding tips so that you do not have to make a comical mess of things in the beginning stages of your passion for birding.
- Read about the birds (not in Wikipedia, there are other sources) in the region and find out the different types of residential and migratory birds. Understand the nature of their habitats – presence of food, water, shelter and space. It can get you feeling excited, prepared and confident
- Reach a bird-friendly spot before the sun appears in all its glory. That way you can start tracking the birds as soon they first come out to feed for the day. Most birds are active between 6 AM – 9 AM
- Wear green or grey clothes to keep a low profile amid the trees and shrubs
- If you are unable to photograph a new bird before it flies away, follow this checklist to jot down a few quick details. You can identify the bird later using a field guide
- Keep an eye out for bird poop dive-bombing from treetops and electrical wires. Their constant bowel movements make it easy to pin-point them
- Approach them with love. You may not think they understand you. I may not have strong enough proof that they do. We both know that there are tons of things we haven’t figured about the universe.
- Do not go birding in large groups. Five is plenty. Larger the crowd the more the chances of polluting the trail and frightening away the birds in the area. There is always that one person who looks to ruin the experience with ego / indifference / carelessness. Leave that person behind please
- Avoid eating heavy or difficult-to-digest food the night prior. They can only cause delay and distraction in the morning
- Keep away deodorants or strong-smelling soaps after morning baths. Although it is debated upon the extent to which birds can smell, why take a chance
- Do not whip out your camera immediately. Give the birds some time to feel secure about your presence. A bird in hand is not always worth the two in the bush. Find out how many there are in the bush before flexing your photography skills
- Never go close to nests / nesting birds. Even if you don’t mean any harm, you can still do damage. Imagine if strange, smelly and uninvited creatures tip-toed to your front door despite your loudest protests and started taking photographs of your family members
- Your selfish expectations won’t get you far. Maybe in life since many of our societal structures thrive on self-preservation. Not in birding though. Making a face or cursing birds when they don’t show up can only be detrimental. Even if you have travelled far to see them, sometimes they just won’t come out. Do not rely on negativity. Instead, deal with it by seeing what you could have done differently. Or hope for better luck next time