Appreciate the Bird for its Behavior Rather Than the Number on Your Life List

Sep 15 2015

Over the last couple of months Ian Lombard, winner of the Safari Guide of Year Awards 2015 (an African Direct initiative) has been sharing some of his insight with us regarding the categories covered in this competition. This month he talks to us about the diversity of birding, and his experiences...

Why all birders should really strive to become bird watchers!

I'm currently in Madhya Pradesh in India, lending a hand with the training of andBeyond's Indian guides, or naturalists as they are more appropriately called. This is a country known for its mind-blowing population density, unique cultures and tiger safaris. Yet its fascinating and rich birdlife has intrigued me most. 

Adjudants, flowerpeckers, fulvettas and minivets; these bird family names are as unusual to me as the birds are beautiful. Yet there are too slight variations to our own familiar South African birds. The red-vented bulbul could easily be mistaken for our dark-capped if it was not for the red vent instead of the yellow. Jungle babblers resemble our own arrow-marked, and tailorbirds must be closely related to cameropteras. The Indian bird guide is filled with a familiarity that would appeal to any South African birder. Like a game of spot the difference, there are enough similarities to make it easy even for a novice! But also such incredible uniqueness and differences which will keep you searching for new species, plus test your skills at the same time.

From penguins in the most isolated arctic desert, to vultures in the most densely populated cities in the world.  Birds inhabit every corner of the globe, and where there are birds you'll find birders. People flock to areas where new or rare birds are spotted in a quest to add a bird to their life-list. This eternal mission to add another bird to their list drives birders across the globe in search of that lifer. However there is so much more to birding than just ticking a species off a list. 

What could be more fascinating to watch a bird migrate to the exact same yearly nesting spot? Who would not appreciate the perfect flight of a raptor hunting? A crowned eagle hunting monkeys through the forest canopy is surely just as exhilarating  as watching the hunting behavior of the big cats? What about experiencing the changing of breeding plumage or the courtship that signals the shifts in the seasons? All birders should really strive to become bird watchers! Appreciating the bird for its behavior rather than the number on your life list that it represents. 

In a few days time the prospective new batch of Indian naturalists will have the opportunity to spend a whole day birding and compiling a bird list. Their knowledge and skill will be tested but there is so much more to a days birding. Do they have the concentration and patience required of carefully going through the distinguishing features of a lark? How about the honesty involved with adding bird species to the list? Will they have the drive and commitment needed to start with the early dawn chorus, and end with the search for that one or two species of nocturnal owl or nightjar? These are all qualities that we will be looking for during their training.

Birding transcends different cultures and beliefs.  It is not restricted by fences or international boundaries. You can bird at anytime and any where. Wether looking at a snowy egret along the Black River in Cape Town or watching a white-rumped munia building its nest along the Banjaar in India. Make sure those binoculars and trusted field guide are within reach. You never know when that new species or familiar old friend might show itself.

Watch Safari Guide of the Year Awards 2015 below:


Image result for ian lombard

Ian Lombard started his guiding career after realizing that reading books about history and the natural world, rather than financial publications, was not conducive to becoming a very good investment banker. He subsequently joined andBeyond as a guide a month after graduating in 2010. After working stints in Madikwe and Kwandwe reserves he now finds himself as an assistant head ranger at Phinda Private Game Reserve in Maputaland in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. The differences between the Kalahari bushveld, Karoo scrubland and immense diversity of Zululand have sparked a wide range of interests from nesting turtles to endemic birds.


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