Friday, April 20, 2012

Why? or How “going birding” is more than just looking at birds

Malayasian Luna Moth, Actias maenas

Have you ever watched Emus run through an outback dust storm? Or seen birds hide down rabbit burrows to keep out of the heat of a 50ºc summer day? How about hearing the kwah – wau call of the Great Argus in a Malaysian rainforest or the mournful, prehistoric cry of the Common Loon on a remote lake in southern Canada? These are all “birding” experiences, but at the same time one experiences what a dust storm is like, how a seriously hot day in desert country feels, how an Asian rainforest smells and sounds, what it means to sit beside the still beauty of a lake shrouded in fog on a cold Canadian morning in fall. I would have had none of these experiences if I had not wanted to be out birdwatching.
Malasian rainforest, habitat for the Great Argus
And yes, one can go to Asia and see the towns, talk to the people and visit the temples, many people do. But if you want to see the non-tourist side of life, a walk down a country track in Vietnam will show you the small farm houses and food gardens as you look for Grey-crowned Crocias; and a walk on the forests trails of Malaysia will take you past the bush camps of the Orang Asli damar-resin gatherers on your way to see a Chestnut-naped Forktail.
Longboat on the Tahan River, Malaysia
For me, in so many ways, birdwatching is so much more than watching birds. Birdwatching is a grand opportunity for new experiences. It is the opportunity to explore out of the way places and see landscapes wide and events small, to be awed by the size and beauty of a Luna Moth and to sigh at the sublime beauty of a small orchid on the forest floor. Birdwatching is even sitting in the doorway of a tent on a cold morning, clasping a hot cup of tea in both hands, as mist sits on a farm dam, or it’s holding a small polished pebble, still wet from a mountain creek bed.

Very large flying beetle, Taman Negara, Malaysia
There are many pastimes that allow these same opportunities for getting out and meeting people from all around the world, seeing new sights, tasting new foods and expanding horizons. Few however, for me, can equal birdwatching as a reason to get out and graze on so many other pastimes from botany to entomology to astronomy to meteorology to geology to palaeontology and so much more.

Sunset on the Indian Ocean, Cocos Island
But of course if you get right down to it, back me into a corner and ask the direct question, then yes, it is really all about the birds. They come first. They are just so beautiful in all their shapes and colours. And there is just so much to see and learn. It was only last weekend that I found out that Wilson’s Storm Petrels have sulphur-yellow webbing between their black toes. Yes, it is mentioned in the field guides but I have never seen it before. It is striking, beautiful and a real surprise. Wilson’s Storm-petrel is a small black and white sea bird but when it spreads its toes, it has BRIGHT yellow feet! Yeea! Gorgeous, I must go and see another one.
Dingo on the Paroo floodplain after heavy rains

Fungus, far south coast NSW

Imprint of a large Flathead, Wonboyn Lake NSW

Orchid White Caladenia, Caladenia catenata

The bore overflow at dawn, Bowra QLD

All images on this blog are © to Jenny Spry and can not be used without permission

1 comment:

  1. Nice one Jen. I'm going to have to look closer at the feet of the next WSP I see.