Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Thrill of Birding

I used to wonder what's the big thing about birding. Enthusiasts and obsessive birders travel far and wide to find rare birds and expand their bird lists, invest a fortune in birding equipment and spend much time out in the wild almost everyday. I came to understand that words fail to bring out the deeper significance of this pursuit. It's only by experience that one can get to the core of its true essence, of that inscrutable feeling of elation and tranquility that washes over one's whole being while immersed in this activity.

I've been following birding blogs, watched films such as The Big Year, yet couldn't fathom the force that drives the birders to pursue that passion to such a degree that seems insane, or obsessive for that matter.

Now I get it. I came to understand what birding can do to one's being. I've been out to the wild myself, with my hubby who was also smitten with the birding fever. With the help of a couple, Gunnar and Nina, who have the mutual passion for birding, we got to know the popular birding locations.  We met out there in the field with our "fika" made up of coffee and sandwiches, and we became friends in the process.

I've seen seasoned birders lined up with their expensive powerful scopes and cameras, scanning the fields for birds of prey through their lenses and waiting for the perfect moment to capture them in the act of depredation. I've seen amateur birders from other countries, young and middle-aged alike, come and go in search of newly arrived birds. I've seen their enthusiasm, their devotion.

It all started this spring, particularly in April, when the birds came back from their long migration during the winter season. Our male friend told us the best place to see them first. I was thrilled to see flocks of swans, ducks and geese going about their business over the withered fields and marshes. Those were the first ones I took notice of as a novice who has never seen such huge flocks of birds before. While the advanced birders watched out for predatory birds, I busied myself watching and shooting the swans and geese. At the same time, I took in the surrounding and luxuriated in the wildness of those marshland and prairie habitats.

I was hooked. Even hubby purchased several binoculars for this hobby. We became a team.

 As we embarked on this new field of activity, we found ourselves frequently jaunting the same bird habitats and watching for new birds, most of which became our lifers. Sometimes, hubby would search the field's edge through his binoculars, and when he would spot an interesting bird, he would instruct me where to aim my camera for a shot. That's our teamwork.

Watching the behaviors of these winged creatures fascinated me. For the first time, I've seen the swans' mating display live. I was then engrossed in photographing  the other birds when a synchronized honking or "singing" caught my attention and I saw just in time a group of swans performing that boisterous dance. The act went too fast and my camera wasn't really focused yet when I had to take the shot.


In the subsequent visits to the marsh, I aimed at the predator birds and tried to capture them in mid-flight and in the act of preying. It was quite hard to see them from our viewing deck which lies at the opposite edge of the marsh. But thanks to the kind birders who easily spotted them with their powerful scopes and told us the precise spots where the birds were. I tried to capture an eagle with its prey whisking across the field to a spot where it nibbled at its food, but it was too far I couldn't get clear shots. But this was just a first attempt. I'm still learning.


Right from the start, I've felt the waves of the therapeutic effects that many birders wrote about. Birding in itself affects our health positively in more ways than one could imagine. That I came to realize too. I don't need to enumerate the beneficial effects of birding here in my blog since they're already overpopulating the web.  I'm just linking to this website for a good read: Bird Therapy.

This is just the start. A thrilling start. And with it came the initial cognizance that "Birding really is the 'perfect tonic' on so many different levels." (quoted from Bird Therapy)


Here's an appealing article about birding based on one of my favorite Scriptures - Matthew 6:26:
Observe Intently the Birds

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