Formerly termed “birdwatching”, the practice of observing wild birds in their natural habitat is now referred to as “birding”. This is due in no small part to the fact that the presence of birds can be appreciated by everyone, regardless of whether you can see the bird or not! Here are some handy tips to enhance your birding experience:
1. Go slowly
Birds are flighty creatures and can be easily spooked. While walking along a trail it is prudent to walk slowly and carefully to avoid flushing nearby birds. Even better is the practice of staying in place – make yourself comfortable and the birds may come closer than you expect!
2. Be quiet
In addition to movement, noise and light also startle birds. It is imperative to let the birds know that you are a non-threatening creature in their environment. Loud speech and cell phone ringtones can put birds on high alert. The reflected light from a moving smartphone screen can also startle birds at considerable distance.
3. Keep the sun at your back
Ensuring that the sun is always at your back doesn’t only prevent squinting into the sun, it also helps in identifying birds by rendering colour as vividly as possible. Birds against the sun are silhouettes and can be difficult to identify.
4. Use optical aids
Birds are typically at some distance from the observer, and therefore to maximize the experience it is useful to bring them closer in a non-physical sense. Optical aids like binoculars or spotting scopes are extremely helpful in noticing details otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Cupping one’s hands to form a hearing aid cone can also serve to hear softer and more distant birdsong.
5. Keep records
Maintaining a “life list” is not always about what you have seen, but records can also include information about time and place of sightings. These details help to piece the puzzle together as the years tick by, similar seasons may bring similar sightings. Record keeping enhances your ability to tune in to phenomena such as migration patterns.
6. Be ethical
There is an absolute need for us to be mindful of the impact we are having as birders on the lives of the birds we enjoy. As quiet and as calm as we think we are, our presence in their habitat is already an intrusion – so it is imperative for us to make every effort to minimize our impact altogether. Feel free to download, print, and refer to the Ethical Guidelines [link] as often as possible.
7. Stay comfortable
Wear comfortable shoes suitable for the terrain you plan on visiting, whether it is a rocky mountain trail or a muddy, marshy area. Choose clothing that is light, of neutral tone, and loose-fitting. Check the weather map before you go out so you’ll know whether to pack a raincoat or boots. Always have sunscreen and insect repellent handy.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is our hope that these pointers help to ensure your experience of birding in T&T is a memorable and enjoyable one.