BIRD WATCHING (BIRDING) IS AN ANYPLACE - anytime activity because birds are everywhere - one of the fastest growing hobbies in Malaysia and the world.Why? Birds are important. The first Sarawak International Bird Race, in 2017, had this as its tagline. Birds are key components of natural ecosystems as pollinators. Some species, for example swifts and swallows, consume vast quantities of flying insects, while others, such as raptors are top predators. Birds are fascinating. Birds are beautiful. They have featured in stories and myths of cultures around the world. Here, some species are / were considered messengers of gods; the state bird, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Kenyalang.Yeo Siew Teck, a birder, photographer and tourist guide, said during a recent talk on birding organised by Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) that, to start birding, all you need is enthusiasm and eyes. This is true for most glorious garden birds; Olive-backed Sunbird, Eurasian Tree- Sparrow, Spotted-necked Dove, and Zebra Dove. These frequently seen birds may have caught your eye so you could already be a member of the ever-expanding birding community.
Red-Naped Trogon Male.
Where to start
They inhabit every corner of the earth. In Kuching, the common birds, sing, chirp, and fly into our hearts, in gardens, parks and along city streets. The splendid Magpie Robin, in its formal black and white attire and chirpy song, along with the elegant Eastern Crimson Sunbird, dressed in striking red, enticed me into the world of birding when I saw them in my garden. For newbies, I suggest starting in your garden where birds are generally easy to see and identify. Then move onto the birding hotspots – in the Kuching area visit Kubah National Park for forest birds or Buntal for coastal species.
Birds are active in the early morning or the late afternoon when they come out to feed.
Some can be difficult to see, so binoculars (bins to birders) would be a must, along with a bird field guide and a notebook. Birds are flighty and do not wait for us to identify them so we need to record our observations. Many birders are photographers – or vice versa - and they often photograph a bird and then identify it. Rose Au, MNSKB chairperson and birder, agreed that binoculars are important, but added that training and joining other bird watchers can increase the confidence of novice birders.
Brown-Throated Sunbird Male
The steps to bird identification are: 1. remember colours of the bird: size, shape and actions;2. draw and label a sketch;3. compare the sketch to birds in the guide;4. decide on species, family or group.
Birders, novice and experienced, can contribute to the global data bank on bird population, which shows trends in migration, numbers, and species, by participating in the annual My Garden Bird Watch (http://www. mygarden birdwatch.com) on Saturday, June 17th or Sunday June 18th.
The birding world is but a step away. What are you waiting for?
Suggested Bird Field Guides
Myers, S., 2016, Birds of Borneo, Second Edition, Helm Field Guides, New Holland, London.Phillipps, Q. and Phillipps, K., 2014, Phillipps Field Guide to the birds of Borneo, Third Edition. Oxford, Beaufoy Books.
Ann Armstrong, an educator, who has spent much of her life in her adopted city, Kuching has a passion for nature and writing.