Bird watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. Birds are marvelous creatures that have unique features that set them apart. Other than just their beauty, there are so many reasons why it is worthwhile to not only stop to smell the roses, but also watch and listen to the birds. Most hobbies in this day an age are less than good for our brains, let alone our health. Hobbies can be expensive and addictive, they also can take away from our social life and make us less of the people we ought to be to the people around us. Birding however, is sure to make one a better person if taken up as a hobby, it has mental, social and environmental awareness benefits for all those that take it up. It is time that you tried it don’t you think?
Social reasons to go birding
Whilst it is socially unacceptable to spy on your neighbors with your pair of binoculars, birds don’t mind us spying on them (at least I hope they don’t). It isn’t just a legitimate hobby, but also a foundation for some of the world’s most meaningful careers (ornithology and conservation of course) and it is overall a very fun activity to do alone or with friends. Imagine spending and afternoon with your dear friend out at your local park, a waterfront, in the open bush forest or even just your backyard garden watching birds. Not only will this get you quality time between sightings but that will save you a couple of dollars in the bank that could have been blown on just drinks at a restaurant! If it’s so much fun with friends, think of how much fun it would be for a date with that person who says they are down to earth and you can’t figure out what that really means. I assure you, you’ll impress them, birding is down to earth.
Any activity that makes a person attentive and gets them to monitor anything around them while taking notes to remember what they saw whether mentally or physically is good for the brain. It is said that when growth stops, decay begins. Bird watching may well be a way to continue exercising your brain before is decays from the daily routine of life. The earlier one starts the better, children should at a young age, be encouraged to be conscious of the environment around them. Nature is the best teacher of all, and most children are probably struggling with their schooling because they don’t get enough time out breathing fresh air and learning to apply what is said in the book to their lives and see the practicality of concepts taught in school.
We all can attest to how that practical we did about transpiration in primary school made it all so real for us. In the practical, you cover a few leaves on a branch with a plastic bag and voila, tomorrow, as if by magic, there are water droplets in the plastic bag. Let’s face it, at that age it is impractical and unimaginable to the brain that leaves loose water and trees breathe and bla bla bla, science fiction right? But at that age, our minds are grasping concepts and opening up to knowledge. If for example, your science teacher then, neglected the all important duty of doing that practical with you, your next science teacher would not take the time to. The next grade assumes you know what you should and you may have trouble grasping the concepts of the next grade that depend on your elementary understanding of transpiration. If you have a child or a younger relative, birding is a sure way to improve their learning as they grow it is certainly better and inexpensive than video games that’s for sure. More than reading for kids, an extra curricular activity such as birding is a sure way to improve their mental capacity The world around us is a gigantic classroom and a living laboratory just waiting for us to sit watch listen and learn.
Environmental reasons to go birding
We all need to be conscious of our environment around us. We are past the ages of environmental ignorance and every year is proving to us how late we got that memo. Just this year, environmental catastrophes that occurred sure made the climate change skeptics rethink their stand (if they are wise). The human race has and continues to make a huge impact on the environment therefore more than ever, right now is the time for us to be more attentive and proactive for our planet. This is because we do not own the planet, but instead we have borrowed it from our children who need it for their future.
Now you just might be thinking, what do birds have to do with that, saving and taking care of the planet? Well, birds are some the most valuable ecosystem indicators, this means in every ecosystem, the real health of the environment can be understood from the state of the birds in it. Birds, especially birds of prey, have shown us in the past, just how badly we have been damaging the planet and ultimately our own health. All this information found was all thanks to scientists (ornithologists, biologists etc) and citizen scientists ( birders like you) that just took time to monitor the birds in their backyard, took notes and compared with what they saw yesterday or what their friend saw in their backyard. It’s that simple really to make a difference in the world today.
If it wasn’t for observant birders and migratory bird counters, the Bald Eagle, the iconic American fishing eagle that is a hair raiser and a joy to watch, would certainly have been history today and in museums for us to see. The Oriental White-backed Vulture along with other Indian vultures would also have been another Dodo story, a myth really to today’s kids, but a myth that lived just in the last two decades. And just like these two stories of big raptor species surviving DDT and Diclofenac, so many things happen everyday in your backyard, to birds in your neighborhood, your city, country, region and the world really right before your eyes. All of it had implications to you by the way to some extant at some point.
There is still so much of our world for us to discover, so many new species being found and others being rediscovered after years of being assumed extinct. So much evolution also going on, behavioral evolution that tells us a lot about changes in our environment. A lot of species are in dire need today, in need of us to just take a minute to take note of what is happening out there. It is ultimately for our own good anyway, it is fun, peace, education, entertainment and interesting stories all told through the glass of a lens.
How and when to start
It has been said that the best time to start is now! Look outside your office window for a certain amount of time at the same time of the day and just observe. Take time during the weekend or even in the mornings on your way to work or school. You will soon realize how amazing the world of birds is. It doesn’t take you to have an expensive pair of binoculars (you can source them at a very affordable price by the way), all it takes is for you to have a pair of eyes and a keen interest. You can begin with your backyard or local park, use a field guide (you can find one in a bookstore, library or a birder friend) and challenge yourself to discovering more birds in your area. Starting anything is intimidating but it gets easier everyday, imagine birding with your family, and your kids or any other person is asking you what bird that is and you have no idea, imagine if you forgot names or you only manage to focus your binoculars when the bird has flown off all the time. I know right, that can be discouraging, but practice makes perfection, you will get the hang of it in no time. Eventually, even in just a month, you may know over 20 species of birds and even their sounds, you may even know some individuals, their routines and have glimpse into their lives. You’ll never know till you try it!
I challenge you today, after reading this, look outside and send your comment in with the first bird you see. If you don’t know it, attach a picture or a good description then we’ll try to identify it. All questions welcome, feel free to ask away.