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4 tips for a great birding experience

If you take the trouble to look around you, chances are you might spot more wildlife than you were aware of. I discovered this on my last trip to Mumbai. From our sixth floor window, we looked down upon green tops of trees. We’ve done this a zillion times; nothing special there. Until we stopped to look, stare, watch.

We discovered a whole new ecosystem right under our noses. Yellow-beaked mynahs, noisy bulbuls in pairs, crows furtively guarding their nests and beautiful green parrots, disappearing effortlessly into the foliage or streaking across the sky.

It gets even better in Goa (and Mangalore, for sure). Here, not only have the sparrows made a comeback (yay), but we’ve seen birds that we have noticed only on pages of books or magazines. Spotting these common birds is now such an everyday occurrence that we now know the names of most species we’ve seen. These include kingfishers in some stunning colours, fluffy green bee-eaters, red wattled lapwings, weaver birds, egrets, drongos, Brahmani kites and orioles.

Spotting these birds doesn’t require any special equipment or training. Everybody can be an excellent birder, if you follow these tips:

1. Be quiet. Be very quiet. Common sense should tell you that any kind of noise or distraction will scare away birds. Stay still if you spot one. Or stay in one place and the birds will soon get used to you – you’ll see a lot more as well.

2. Wear quiet clothes and accessories: This includes dull colours, quiet shoes, bags with no bells attached, and cameras with the shutter sound off, if possible.

3. Be excited: Enthusiasm for birding can take you a long way on trips when you often won’t spot anything or cannot spot a bird among the trees.

4. Be prepared to be disappointed: You may hear the birds making a racket all around you, yet you may not be able to spot any in the foliage. Be grateful for the pleasure of birdsong and move along when it is time. Don’t pester birds or chase after them – that ruins the pleasure both for you and for the birds. Remember, you are the intruder here.

The next time you are looking out of your window or walking along the street, take a moment to be aware of the bird-sounds around you. You’ll be very surprised at what you find.

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