Real Birders Not Just Birdwatchers!

I live in the tropics in a marvelous place. While I adore my pet and dogs are my favorites, since moving here, I have become very fascinated by birds. In fact, it is here that I have learned just how special and generous serious bird-watchers are.

The hobby came upon me by accident. As a frequent volunteer, I was asked to help out with the clean-up in one of our nearby creeks. I thought nothing of it until I realized that this water source was inside the municipal forest of my small town, an area that had long been abandoned to its fate. I was working with the a group of people who were hoping to maximize the forest’s potential by surveying it, cleaning it, clearing it and setting up some kind of reception area for visitors. I had never gone there before and I felt ready for the adventure.

I didn’t know very much about birds. I grew up in Brooklyn New York and although I went to Prospect Park often and did see warblers, sparrows and robins, I can honestly say, I never paid too much attention. All that changed for me as I began to participate in these clean-ups and was exposed to the fact that people travel great distances with their equipment for the chance to photograph or often just catch a glimpse of different species that they then tick off in their records.  I know all about jokes made about birders. I am in no danger of becoming one since I haven’t got the time, resources or drive to become an important member of that club. Still, theirs is an amazing life!

A decade ago, I visited a part of the country that is known to have Resplendent Quetzals. These birds are not as commonly seen anywhere else.  I took my walk one afternoon when a serious birder came up to me and told me where he had just spotted one. He instructed me to take my time, to go quietly and to be prepared with my camera because I might scare the bird off. I remember thinking that this sharing was not what I had previously thought about birders. I took his advice and yes, I came upon that splendid bird just where he said. And then I spotted another one, and another one and another one. It seemed the area was living up to its reputation. There is an education and research center there as well. I will return now that my husband and I have more time and also a very good camera with which to take pictures.

When I was asked to participate in the clean-up, I was also asked to think about ways in which tourism in the area might be increased. I remember sitting on the side of the makeshift road and looking around me. There was no clearing, my imagination did not immediately produce any ideas. Suddenly I heard the song of a bird I had not heard before. My colleague informed me we were listening to a long-tailed manikin (Chiroxiphia linearis). I held my breath and raised my eyes to the tree before me. There it was, a magnificent bird with a very unusual tail.

Subsequent visits by student volunteers produced an inventory of birds there and we have begun to entertain the idea of suggesting that serious birders make this a “must” stop when they visit our small town.

wikipedia image of long-tailed manikin


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