Well, it has been a week since we have entered a new year! I’m not sure about your social media feeds, but mine has been filled with the typical “#NewYearNewMe” posts – you know which ones I am talking about… The ones that capture the posters best side, with extravagant promises to lose weight, live like no one is watching, to become a millionaire by the end of the year, et cetera, et cetera… Basically speaking, it is resolutions that have already been broken by the time I write this article!
And on the other hand, you have other people (birders), who start posting about how many species they want to see, and how many trips they have planned – trips to Mozambique, Botswana, Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe, the Amazon – and I am totally not jealous! …well, maybe just a little bit jealous.
Now, on to my topic for this article.
As you can probably glean from the first two paragraphs, I have not made any new year’s resolutions, nor do I have any trips planned. My first day birding was on the 2nd of January, and the very first bird I recorded was a Hadeda Ibis – yay! Not exactly the most exciting bird, but at least they are my number one bird – in that they are generally the first bird I record every year.
The best thing about a new year, is that I get to record all the common species again – and it’s almost as if they are lifers again. As I am writing this, my year list is sitting on 106 species – I’m sure some of you who are reading this article have triple that but considering the fact that I have simply birded locally and only twice, I think it’s a decent amount.
With that being said, it got me thinking – what are the pros and cons of actively pursuing new species, versus birding on a local level? I have decided to try and break it down according to what I can see.
1. Actively pursuing new species (going on expensive birding trips).
Firstly, let me get it out there – if I had the bucks to travel, this would probably be the option I’d go with. But, here are the pros and cons…
· You see more species
· You get amazing experiences in different locations
· You could possibly win the Southern Africa Birdlasser Challenge
· There is more chance of seeing rare species
· You may not have enough time to appreciate the species
· You miss out on amazing experiences in your local area
· You would have to work extremely hard to beat the experts
· You probably won’t be the one to spot the rarity first – you will be more reliant on other people’s reports
2. Birding locally (only in your area).
This is the option I’m going with this year – not by choice! But I have seen some great benefits to birding in this manner.
· You get to go home and sleep in your own bed every day
· You don’t have to go out every day
· You can be in the TOP 10… of your pentad (maybe).
· You are probably more likely to spot a rarity first, as you get used to your local birds, and can spot the odd ones out.
· You can have amazing experiences by simply appreciating the ordinary
· I mean… who wouldn’t love to sleep in a game reserve every night? I would give up my bed in a heartbeat!
· You tend to get lazy – tomorrow becomes the standard reply when you are asked about your next birding day
· You just hope that you don’t have 10 experts / retirees living in your pentad!
· While you would spot the rarity first, you are more likely to see a Hadeda Ibis for the 1,267,253,452nd time in a row.
· There are only so many times you can appreciate the ordinary before you long for something extraordinary
So, as I said, I would love to do option 1, but I am doing the 2nd option this year. But I am looking forward to making the most of what I have around me – I have been lucky in past years to see some rare birds in my area (never first though). In past years, I have been lucky enough to get to see an African Scops Owl, a Rufous-bellied Heron, a Bronze-winged Courser, and many many more.
Let me know what you are doing this year – I’d love to get jealous hearing about the trips that you have got planned! Post it in the comments section of this blog.