Birding Is the New Diving, plus 8 Birding Tips for Everyone

Had done birding in Pulau Rambut, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan, Pulau Serangan, Alor, and New Zealand (land of raptors and piwakawaka!) before went to Sumba for my first “official” birding. Sumba is particularly kind for birders, even for amateurs. I spotted so many species during a 3 days race in Taman Nasional Manupeu Tanah Daru, Sumba Tengah.

In Alor, I did birding quite often, often using BapaWill’s very “proper” binoculars. Alor is where I spotted so many seabirds in a single location (during arus dingin Alor). I also spotted fruit honeyeaters, doves, zebra finches, raptors, kingfishers, swifts, megapodes, and more. That is why I often joke with fellow (free)divers, “Birding is the new diving!” because Alor is indeed a spectacular destination for both divers and birders! 

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Those lenses though…. They even can help you see craters in the moon!

“Is birding fun?”, “Is it easy to do?”, “How you do birding?”, and “Share the tips” are often addressed by friends and acquaintances to me, a birder wannabe. “Who am I to talk about birding?” is my regular answer. But since I do not want to disappoint them, I usually open my beaks to chirp more about birding in the wild:

1. Chase not birds

All I really want to know about birding, I learn in diving. Never chase species. It is tiring for the start. Move slowly and silently. I remember I had to walk super slowly in order to see orange-footed scrubfowls in Alor and a tiny quail in Nusa Lembongan.

2. Chase down the dawn

Birds are early risers. Early morning is when they do dawn chorus. So, wake up early to catch their sights and sounds.

3. Invest in good binoculars

BapaWill’s binoculars (Fokus B Type) are probably the best I’ve used so far. It can see clearly a distance of more than 3 km! I could see from Alor Kecil someone sitting on the beach in Pulau Pura using his bino. I wish I could have brought his to Sumba because mine is a “toy bino”, can only see up to 1 km. But I was contented with what I have and thank goodness, birds in Sumba were abundant. All within the reach of my bino. Of course, I am now saving my money to buy proper bino!

4. Read birding books

As are fish in the seas, there are so many birds out there. Indonesia alone has about 17% of birds in the world. I love birding books but most books about birds of Indonesia are written in English. And worse, most do not include local names of the birds! How come?? It’s like a pure ignorance. CMIIW. I just wanted international birders who come to Indonesia be able to say to the locals, “Show me where I can see perkici and burung merak please!” without opening the books to show pictures! Am I asking too much? Lol!

5. Do not summon birds by feeding

Just like the adage “Do not feed fish in the seas”, never feed birds in the wild to get pics. It can break their feeding habits. Birds are capable of feeding themselves.

6. Get a good cam!

Most fellow birders who did bird race brought along very long long lenses and tripods. Having a good cam will help your birding hobby of course. And you can connect with fellow birding enthusiasts in many forums to get photographic tips on birding.

7. Talk to locals

Birds can be icebreakers too. And most locals have good knowledge of birds. Trust me. If you show interests in “their” birds, they will tell you a lot! Also ask them how birds are portrayed in their cultures, like how Sumba people portray birds in cloths and sculptures. See the featured picture of Sumba hornbill and herons. Both birds represent symbols in the Sumba folklores.

8. Take note, record songs

Every birder needs to take notes (and sketches) of birds they see while birding. Records of birdcall are also valuable. You can share the valuable data with fellow birders. Sharing is caring.

That’s all folks. Do I miss anything? Any birding tips you have? Share your tips in Comments!

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