Monday, February 20, 2012

The Gift of Lifers

This weekend, Jops and I together with friends Trinket, Tere, Drew, Alex and Jon J., gave an introductory talk about the basics of birdwatching to some park guides from the La Mesa Ecopark and from the Bantay Kalikasan-La Mesa Watershed Project.

We had our usual spiels about what birdwatching is all about and the basics of birding. This is more or less the stuff we talk about when we conduct guided bird watching trips and when we are invited to talk in schools. But it was quite different with this group since they were already aware of the birds in their respective areas. They have observed bird behavior in the field and were now ready to "level up" and identify these birds.

After the first part of the talk, our group took them out birding in the trail of La Mesa Ecopark. I personally found it wonderful to see their reactions when we identified some birds that they have been seeing but have been unable to ID. It was also great seeing their reactions when they did see a bird for the first time! Even if the bird isn't my own personal lifer and I've seen it many times, it was a lifer for them and it's such a joy every time I see someone seeing a lifer =)

Participants birding in the park

I don't see their eyes (since they're peering through their binoculars) but you see the corners of their eyes crinkle as they smile upon seeing the bird. Sometimes you see their eyebrows rise, sometimes you hear a gasp or a soundless "wow", sometimes an excited outburst and other times, even a profanity escapes the lips of a newly fledged birder seeing his/her spark bird.

Jops and I have participated in a number of guided birdwatching trips since we became members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and although people's reactions vary, showing them a bird and seeing their reactions is like getting a lifer again, or rather it is like I am reliving the time I saw that bird for the first time. It  makes me smile when I see a person bobbing up and down on his feet, waiting impatiently for his turn on the spotting scope, mumbling quietly to the bird "Wag ka aalis, wag ka aalis..." ("Don't fly away, don't fly away...") Priceless!

As we closed our activity with the park guides, they shared their insights and we saw that they now had  more tools about birdwatching that they can use in their work. They now wanted to have their own binoculars and saw the need and importance of having a good field guide. (Oh, if only I could just donate some binoculars and Kennedy guides to them!) We left the park happy that we have succeeded with our goal of teaching the basics of birdwatching and for giving them the opportunity to see their first set of lifers.

Group shot taken by Jops. Presenting new birders raring to go out in the field!


  1. Good job Maia, and thanks for inviting me!

    The joy you feel in seeing others bag a lifer is a sign that you are a great bird guide! I hope you get even more chances to share your joy with many others!

    1. Aw =) thank you Trinket! we learned a lot from you (still learning nga e) =)