6 Excellent Reasons Why Birdwatching Is Worth Your While

Java Sparrow in Intramuros

We went birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. This was the third time we took advantage of the free guided birding trips periodically offered by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. Not only that, I finally signed up to become a member. I’ve been wanting to join the club for the longest time and I finally did it. Yay, me! It only took me seven years.

My primary reason for joining is that I’ve always enjoyed birdwatching. I’m as much a “Look at that bird” person as a “Look at the moon” one, I suppose. 😀 My spark bird (the one that ignited the interest in birdwatching) was a bee hummingbird I spotted one morning while I was vacationing at my aunt’s home in Southern California.

During that trip, I also frequently saw bluebirds, seagulls, crows, and Pelicans. For a girl who’d never seen anything but Eurasian tree sparrows (maya) and pigeons freely flying about (I was wrong about this, btw), seeing different kinds of birds in the wild (well, suburban wild) was a huge deal.

Birdwatching is definitely an activity that I want to share with my family. It’s my own interest, but I believe that my kids can benefit so much from engaging in it as well. Let me list the obvious perks that come with birdwatching.

  1. You learn about nature and appreciate how full of wonders it is. Different aspects of nature are intertwined, so the knowledge gained won’t be limited to birds. The impact on your kids could also be that, from being exposed to nature, they won’t be easily impressed by materialistic goods. If you’re a homeschooler, you could also integrate birdwatching into nature walks, make creating a safe habitat for birds a project, etc.
  2. You get yourself outdoors. Have you ever heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder? Child advocacy expert Richard Louv coined the term, which refers to the condition in which human beings, particularly the young, spend less time outdoors, resulting in various behavioral problems. It’s important to get yourself and your family outdoors. If you’re kind of a homebody, you can start with your backyard, gradually move on to the park, and then move on to easy nature hikes. Perhaps you can venture farther and attempt something even more outdoorsy from there. You get to enjoy the fresh air, soak up the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D, and have an adventure.
  3. You get some great exercise – So engrossed in watching birds, you won’t notice that you’re walking miles at a time. This gives you a solid cardio workout. You also build up the strength of your upper arms, having to lug around spotting scopes as well as lift binoculars and hold them steadily.
  4. You effectively develop skills necessary to slow living. You learn to be more patient since birdwatching is not an exercise in instant gratification. Sometimes you have to wait hours (or years) to spot the bird you want to see. Besides that, birdwatching can also be a meditative activity and provide you with plenty of opportunity for contemplation and introspection.
  5. You hone quick reflexes and mental alertness at the same time that you develop patience. Birds won’t stop and pose for you while you scramble for your binoculars and focus them accordingly. You also need to be fast at spotting clues of a bird’s presence and identifying its kind based on the features you saw, no matter how fleetingly.
  6. You become a member of a special community. By becoming a birdwatcher, not only do you gain the physical and mental benefits of the activity, you also boost your social health. It’s a great way to meet kindred spirits, both offline and online.

Do you love birdwatching? Do you find it interesting and see yourself taking it up? Or do you think it’s, well, for the birds? Let us know your thoughts on this and tell us which birds you frequently see in your neighborhood.

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Backyard Birding: Brown Shrike

brown shrike in gardenAs much as I profess to love nature, I’m not really an outdoorsy type of person. Although I like hiking, my endurance is highly suspect and my pace rivals that of a snail. Nonetheless, I’ve been blessed with hiking experiences in three continents, and my performance in all of them could only be labeled pathetic. While everybody was energetically tramping up and down inclines, I straggled behind seriously afraid of my lungs, heart or any other vital organ giving out.

In any case, any chance I get to be out in the, well, not-so-wild, I always watch out for sightings — of birds. I love birding. Growing up in the city, my main exposure was to sparrows and pigeons. Understandably, anything other than those two gets me excited. I spent some time as a wildlife trade monitor for a local environmental organization, and through the orientation we went through, I learned about exotic/endemic birds and became more aware of the wider variety that we have here in the city. I know that our garden alone has been graced by some uncommon ones. There was that time when a Fischer lovebird hung out at the kamias tree for several minutes. Another time it was a female purple sunbird hovering by the clothesline. I also know we get a lot of mourning doves and the black and white piedtail birds (I don’t remember which).

The other day, Mark spotted a non-sparrow on the neem tree and hastily called me. Since it just perched there contentedly, I urged Mark to try and take a picture. Since we were in the kitchen and he was taking pictures with the window screen in front of him, the pictures weren’t very clear. However, it did work quite well as a basis for comparison when I was researching what kind of bird it was. I’m pretty confident it was a brown shrike. Look.

I’d love to go birding in the wild again, but I think I can indulge my penchant for bird-watching right in our tiny garden. In fact, I intend to make birding an ongoing homeschool activity. Marguerite and I can get started on visual journals where we can document sightings. She has already been on a couple of birding trips though, so she already has quite a number of lifers under her belt. We really should chronicle these things to better remember the moments. In the meantime, I’d really like to know which birds you usually see in your yard or garden. Please share. 🙂

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