Birds might be our nearest link to the vanished dinosaurs, but for many people — myself included — they provide both aural and visual interest in any landscape. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a city, by the sea, among mountains, low lying meadows, or in a thick forest, there will always be birds to see and hear.
My Local UK Patch as at 16 September 2020
Birding Not Twitching
I’m a birder not a twitcher. I understand the urge to enlist the birds you see; but I can’t imagine driving hundreds of miles simply to add a rarity to my life list.
To me the joy of birding is in the everyday encounters. Whether sitting on my balcony in the Qarnat Quartier in Qatar, tramping alongside the marshes in the Newport Wetlands or following a forest trail in Wentwood. On any of these routes I know I’m going to find many familiar species and every now and again, something to stir my interest.
A Reluctant Lister?
I started using the fantastic Merlin Bird ID app a few months ago. I was spending more time on Irakaya Farm, an oasis of green meadowland in the harsh Qatar desert. This huge farm is a significant birding hotspot during the spring (roughly March through to May). It’s not unusual to see a dozen Pallid Harriers on the wing, Steppe Eagles and other raptors as well as a good varriety of song birds.
Although many are familiar to me, there are lots that I can’t identify, which is where the App comes in. By uploading a photo of the bird in question, the location and date, you’ll quickly be presented with a list of the most likely species. This has proved to be an invaluable aid to identification for species I was unfamiliar with, like the Isabelline Wheatear below.
Having begun to use one Cornell app, it was inevitable that I would start to use the ebird app too. I first came across this app in a YouTube video by Stephano Ianiro(below). In addition to doing a who a great job explaining how he uses eBird to find birding hotspots, he also demonstrates the eBird list. I’ve only just started using this myself, and you can check out my list here.
Mindfulness and Birding
There are two aspects of birding I really enjoy. The first is the way you can deeply engage with your local patch over time. I like being able to detect small changes to familiar landmarks, noting the way weather, changes in light conditions or time of day can affect conditions. There’s something enriching about this level of intimacy with a local patch.
The second aspect is how by focusing on the moment, you can still your thoughts and quietly direct your attention exclusively to what is at hand. This can feel contemplative and has many parallels to a mindfulness practices, with all their known health benefits.