The World of Birders
|Liz and husband Abraham Gallo own and operate Bosque del Rio Tigre, a lodge in Dos Brazos that specializes in birding. You may reach her at email@example.com|
Osa Birder, TURISMO
Bird watching, commonly referred to as “birding,” can be approached in many ways; as a casual hobby, an obsessive endeavor, a competitive sport or a serious behavioral study. For some, it becomes an enjoyable way to make a living. No matter the approach, birding builds a connection between the birder and the world around us, instilling an awareness of the complexities of nature and adding greatly to the fabric of life experiences.
A day of birding can simply be an enjoyable day of relaxing in the outdoors observing familiar “friends” going about their daily routines. But sometimes the birder is treated to an unusual, special event that will be remembered for a very long time.
Today one of our guests came back from a morning walk overflowing with excitement because, not only did he see the Royal Flycatcher, a rarity all through its range in Costa Rica, but he saw its brilliant, blue-bordered, scarlet-red, fan-shaped crest, fully raised. That is a truly rare treat.
I am still savoring the late afternoon in mid-December, when across the river, on the ridge, we had an Ornate Hawk-Eagle preening its tail feathers for almost a half hour. It would dip its head to the base of the tail and slowly run the tail through its bill out to the very end. It reminded me of ballet, graceful and artistic.
I will never forget my first discovery of an Orange-collared Manakin over 20 years ago. While walking on a little-used part of our property, I heard that distinctive snapping sound in an area of dense brush. Crawling on my hands and knees, and having no idea what to expect, I eventually came upon several brilliant plumed male manakins, rapidly hopping from one vertical stick to another, snapping, honking and generally moving almost faster than the eye could follow. Fascinated, I sat in a cramped position for at least a half hour watching this display.
But one does not need to go to these extremes to have unforgettable experiences. They come along fairly regularly and in direct relation to the amount of time spent birding.
A few years ago I heard that birding was the fastest growing hobby in the USA. There are birders all over the world. There are associations, clubs, tour companies, websites, software, list serves, rare bird hot lines, competitive fund -raising events and many magazines devoted to birding, and of course, a whole varied line of commercial products just for birders.
It’s been fun watching this hobby grow on the Osa. When I first arrived, 23 years ago, there were no resident birders. With the influence of tourism, visiting birders and the associated natural history education, there are many local and ex-pat residents taking up the pastime of birding.
To get started one will need binoculars and a field guide. Those two items are necessary and a modest investment and all you really need. But like any hobby, birding can get very expensive if you let it. You may find yourself buying birding software for keeping lists, bird song CDs to help with identification and a camera to record observations. Maybe you will want a big pocketed vest to carry your camera, field guide and water. Of course, now that you are a photographer as well, you will need photo software. To get a more detailed view of the birds, you start saving for a tripod and spotting scope, a rather large investment. After birding locally for awhile, it will be time to go further afield to see new birds, so the next purchases will be airplane tickets, maybe a hired private guide . . .
Most people start birding in a casual way, using birding as a reason to get out and do something different a few times a year, often socially with other birders. It is a great hobby that will get the bird enthusiast to places that they never would have thought of going before. It serves well throughout the later years of life, providing a leisurely pastime for those no longer able, comfortably or with joy, to hike up the highest mountains. Joining a bird club or participating in an organized outing is a great way to meet others with similar interests and for the single birder, far better than going to the local pub.
Many birders, including myself, like to spend hours just walking in the forests and watching the behaviors of different species and marveling over the various bird’s rhythms, patterns, and behaviors. With each field trip, there is new knowledge and understanding, keeping the birder interested and engaged.
Some serious birders keep detailed field records, as did early explorers and ornithologists. Others just list the new birds they have seen on every outing. There are birders that will travel a long way just to see 1-5 birds they have never seen before. Some of these folks are competitive, with themselves or others, making lists of all the birds they have seen and trying to add new ones daily. Lists are kept and published, of yard birds, country birds and trip birds. It becomes somewhat of a sport.
Ornithologists spend day after day in the field studying and recording behavior or resource and habitat use of an individual species or the complex interaction of different species in various habitats.
We are thankful for the serious birder who takes the time to add their observations to the citizen science data banks such as eBird (a Cornell website) or the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, which are helping scientists, conservation organizations and policy makers decide how to help struggling bird populations world-wide.
No matter what the approach to birding an individual takes, there will always be remarkable experiences to share with others for years in the future.