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Birds Watching

India is home to as many as 1200 species of birds (roughly 14% of the total known species), out of which 141 are endemic to this region. What’s even more astonishing is that, of the 27 Orders and 155 Families that bird life has been classified into, India has 20 Orders and 77 families. The reason for this richness of species is the climate, the diversity of vegetation as well as its wide altitudinal range, which extends from sea level to the Himalayas. Chirping noises are the noises that we love to hear because of its sweetness and the shrill sound makes our heart sing with happiness. Watching birds keenly and gaining knowledge on their habitats can be as interesting as watching some animal in the open wilderness. Some feel frustrated not spotting a bird for long. But like there are rules to every game, there are rules to this game also. Here are few of them.

Songs and bird calls are excellent identification mechanisms and sometimes, are the only ways to identify a bird because some species can only be distinguished in the field by their calls. The best element of birding in Uttarakhand is because of the two distinct habitats which can be weaved into one outstanding bird watching sojourn. The sub Himalayan birding at Corbett National Park is supplemented by the distinct possibilities of sighting the Tiger and the Elephant. Many of the birds found in the surrounding areas of Nainital, are typically Himalayan species associated with these higher elevations.

Corbett National Park is a bird watcher's paradise. The park, with its rich Bio-geographic diversity, is home to more than 600 species of birds - about half of the total species found in the entire Indian subcontinent! It is considered one of the true bird parks of the world. Raptors are of infinite variety and occasionally, species of hawks and eagles appear. The numerous water bodies provide an ideal habitat for ducks and waders, most of which are migratory. The park forms a natural crossroad and meeting ground for avian species from high altitude areas, plains and eastern and western regions. Because of this unique location, the bird population is pretty high throughout the year, with winter visitors, summer visitors, altitudinal migrants, passage migrants and local migrants. The Mangoli valley, Nainital and Pangot region in the Kumaon are unmistakably, the most remarkable areas for higher Himalayan birds.

Birding Tips
Frustrated because you can't identify all the birds at your feeder, in the woods, along the roadside, or at the beach? Here are some quick tips for beginning birders.

  • Be sure you have a decent pair of binoculars and have adjusted and practiced using them.
  • Always locate a bird first with your naked eye. The field of view through binoculars is much narrower, making it harder to search.
  • Consider colours a bonus. Except under the best of conditions, it is hard to see feather colours accurately. Light reflection and shadows often distort, dull, or exaggerate the colours. Consider other factors first. If conditions are good, consider colour a bonus. Of course, there are species for which accurate colour determination is essential for accurate identification.
  • Size is helpful, but conditions can be misleading. A bird soaring overhead or flying by, may seem much larger or smaller than reality. A reference object is helpful - a tree, fence post, telephone pole, etc.
  • Observe the shape or profile of the bird. A long-bill, long legs, or tufted head immediately eliminates many possibilities.
  • Habitat is always a useful consideration. In the midst of a coniferous forest you expect to see a different set of birds (avifauna) than you would on an ocean shore or in a city park.
  • Note the behavior. Wading in shallow water, climbing a tree trunk, swimming, diving through the air, emerging from a mud nest, or sitting on a fence post, all narrow the choices down considerably.
  • Songs and calls are excellent identification mechanisms and sometimes the only way to identify a bird, because some species can only be distinguished in the field by their calls; and it is not uncommon to hear birds but not be able to find them. This takes a lot more practice than learning the visual characteristics. I find it easiest to learn songs and calls if I am able to watch the bird singing or calling.
  • Use a good field guide as they identify characteristics (field marks) most helpful to identification.
  • Finally, the most important recommendation for the beginning birdwatcher: go out in the field with those folks who know the birds.

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