Falling in love with birds: Do’s and don’ts

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.


Great Indian Hornbill, , Valparai

Great Indian Hornbill

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.

Indian Pitta, Thekkady

Indian Pitta

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.

Do’s

  • 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.

Don’ts

  • 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
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37 comments

  1. Christy – Thank you for this post 🙂 – We are all like birds in a way right? Looking to find a mate, set up a nest, wait for the young ones to grow and see them fly away!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve never enjoyed the long passing of time as much as I have enjoying birds and nature. I am more patient in all aspects of my life since I began birding. Just ask my kids and husband!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so far behind on my blog reads, but this! You have morphed into a beautiful, caring and thoughtful birder. Again, I’m disappointed we may never be quiet side-by-side watching and waiting for feathered beauties together. It is by far my favorite thing to do with idle time. Another well-written post, Christy. I used the swallows on a line as my tablet’s background for a while. They make me so happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you so much, it means a truckload to me coming from you, given how much I respect the your efforts and the way you describe pastoral connections.

      Never say never, Shannon, technology or luck might have us crossing paths!

      Continue being happy and birdy, much love to you and the family.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I must admit that those amazingly cute and spiffy looking birds on the wire are what drew me to this post. That sentence alone would have given you an idea about my abysmal knowledge of birds. But Christy, I was surprised by the amount of strategy you guys use to get close to them !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Take into consideration that I am quite the amateur, there are those who take into account wind patterns, the moon’s positioning the night prior and such. It’s really quite riveting.

      The nicest part of birding is that you learn as you go along without feeling handicapped by the mistakes made. And believe me when I tell you, all it takes is one particular bird to give you the bug. I barely knew anything about the crows and mynahs that live in my neighbourhood two years ago.

      Have an amazing weekend!

      Like

  4. Thank you for your good, practical tips! Although getting up early 6am-9am is always difficult for us :<. We’ve learned to to go out expecting nothing and sometimes are pleasantly surprised by the unexpected.
    We love your thoughtful writing and adorable pictures 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Beautiful pictures as always and such useful tips! You are a true, compassionate birder 🙂 I feel birding is not about getting the perfect picture.. its about soaking in the beauty, grace and elegance of a bird by not disturbing it and its environment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks lavanya. Compassion be thy name more befittingly since it came calling earlier in life!

      You are absolutely right about the perfect photo being secondary. I can’t say I have followed it to the tee but one can aspire to be better always, I suppose.

      Can’t wait to read your museum visit, just saw the update!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha thank you 🙂 That’s very true…I keep telling myself “live in the moment” when I’m in nature.. they’re often times I just don’t take my camera so I’m forced to think that way! Those visits are often more enriching! I hope you enjoy my post. I really loved the museum 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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