Birdwatching is a hobby which began to spread widely in the 1930s with the development of binoculars and other magnifying devices. It began to replace the collecting of shells, butterflies, flora and fauna. Around the same time, the first bird guides were published, giving information on appearance, behavior and location. Since then, the number of people ‘hunting’ birds has continued to grow yearly, and there are now millions engaged in this activity, mainly from developed countries such as Europe and the U.S.A.
Basically, birdwatching is the same as any other ‘collecting’ hobby, with the aim to see as many different species as possible without the need to shoot or poison. Every weekend, people festooned with binoculars and with field guides in their pockets appear on swamps, lakes and forest paths looking for rare birds and noting them in pocket books.
People begin observing wild birds for different reasons. For some, it’s the continuation of a childhood hobby. For others, it’s a great way to meet new friends and to enjoy the company of similar-minded people. But the real excitement comes from the great intake of birdwatching itself. In some months, you discover that you’ve seen all the birds in the vicinity of your home city, and feel the need to look for something new – maybe a trip to the Extreme North, the Mexican border or the tropics. Within three or four years, your ‘life-list’ (the list of all the birds you’ve seen) may include most of the 800 Russian species. It’s then that exciting trips to places such as South Africa, Nepal or New Guinea get started!
This trend can become a passion in certain circles, and the measurement of ‘coolness’ for a birdwatcher can be determined by the number of new species seen and entered into the personal list. Peculiar competitions can follow, to see who can observe the greatest number of birds within a day or a trip. Following such events, evenings can be spent in a type of espionage drama, when a group of ‘birders’, with binoculars practically glued to their eyes, engage in lively arguments about what has been seen that day. Real professionals can recognise the smallest bird in the sky by just a flap of it’s wing, a voice from the bush. In their turn, they can impart this knowledge to novice birdwatchers.
All birds are unique: big or small, predatory or defenceless, they are all undoubtedly beautiful and accompany us in our everyday life. A bird’s world exists simultaneously with a human’s. It’s worth it only once to experience the inability to tear oneself away from the endless soap opera written by nature itself, where birds perform all the parts. The task of an observer is not to miss a single episode and to keep full attention on the plot. Every year, birds migrate to nesting grounds; they look for partners and they make courtships and breed. They feed their chicks, protect them from predators, practise flight with them and show them annual migration routes. This story continues every year, and yet each year is different. There are almost 10000 bird species in the world – it’s no surprise birdwatching can become a lifetime hobby.