Friday, January 8, 2016

What is birdwatching?

What is birdwatching? The word in itself is pretty accurate in describing what it's all about: watching birds. However the word is most often used to describe a enthusiast or someone who watches  or observes birds as a hobby. Ornithology is used as well to describe the hobby, but denotes a more professional or enthusiastic approach.

Most birdwatchers frequently visit, usually early in the morning, places inhabited by many different species.Almost everyone carries a binocular, a backpack with extra clothes, a guidebook, notebook, some sandwiches and a thermos with coffee. Many do have a spottingscope and somesort of camera. However nothing of this is required. The only requirement are: being interested and being able to see and hear(.I know of a biologist that is completely blind but who is skilled in discerning different species based on the sounds they make!)

Today birdwatching is in its fourth or fifth generation. The first generation of ornithologist were the early scientists in the 18th and 19th -centuries. They shot the birds in order to determine species and many "new" species were found and named during this time. The first books on birds were published during this time.

The second generation of ornithologist consisted of mainly scientists in the late 19th - century all the way into the 1960s. They had binoculars and guidebooks. Early understanding of migration and the impact of human activities on wildlife was developed.

The third generation of ornithologist consisted of both scientist and enthusiasts that owned binoculars and usually spotting scopes with greater magnifications. Extensive knowledge and data was collected through ornithological societies. A greater understanding of migration was developed. The third generation saw with their own eyes how pesticides and human activity affected different species. Environmental protection programmes were developed.

The fourth generation of ornithologist is now. The majority of them are enthusiast, but they contribute with scientific data through digital portals and databases. Most own a binocular, a spottingscope and a digital camera. There are a variety of guidebooks on the market and products solely aimed at birdwatchers.

Some like to include a fifth generation: birdwatchers that share data and observations live through socialmedia and such. The ability to determine species,age, characteristics, is greatly enhanced through optic with built in stabilisers and cameras. The ability to capture images with a camera or smartphone through a spotting scope is also considered a shift from the fourth generation.

In my opinion there is three different types of birdwatchers today: 

1. The casual watcher. a person that likes being outdoors and is interested in birds and wildlife. Enjoys all birds and enjoys them anywhere. Owns a pair of binoculars and a guidebook. Watches birds and wildlife during long walks to the forest or sea during weekends. Stays at home during bad weather.

2. The enthusiast. A person that has been watching birds for many years, owns good binoculars, a spottingscope, is more interested in species and birds that are more hard to find and/or rare, one who is out in any weather and any day. One who usually makes detailed notes about every observed bird and species.The enthusiast is a member in one or many ornithology societies and engaged in different activities. Many have a degree in biology or similar.

3. The super-enthusiast. A birdwatcher that lives and breathes for birds. Carries binoculars everywhere and is willing to drive several hundred kilometers to see a rare bird/species. Is mostly interested in rare or special birds. One who makes lists of eg. all species observed under one year or in specific area.   Owns expensive optics and is a member of a exclusive or "pro" ornithology society.

I fall somewhere in between categories 2. and 3. I will cover my birdwatching "philisophy" and motivation in a later post.

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