COVID-19 Advisory

Best of Birding


How many times have you been peacefully strolling through a still wilderness only to discover, you’ve been completely engrossed in the universe as it is right now? There are no thoughts nor desires – just the birds and the present. Here’s a tale of Sidra Monreal, a Boulder, Colorado-based travel and wildlife photographer who had an experience, experience that changed her perspective towards life, to appreciate every life around.  

Recollecting, the first time I encountered birders. Being focused about my search for ginormous animals, ready with fingers positioned to capture them in camera roll. In the lush Okonjima Nature Reserve, South Africa, I was partnered in a Land Rover with an old British couple who, when asked by our guide about their interests, replied “birds” swiftly and simultaneously. 

Image by Sidra Monreal, cntraveler–  A southern masked weaver in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia 

The southern masked-weaver is polygynous (the breeding practice of a male, breeding with more than one female at the same time) and colonial. In his territory, the male may have up to 12 breeding females. The southern masked weaver will build a nest and seek to attract a female. 

“Oh my!” said the man. “Stop, stop, stop!  I looked for a cheetah, a jackal, or, most ambitiously, an elephant shrew on the horizon, only to discover them pointing towards a hazy object on a far limb. Our guide tilted his head to the side and lifted his binoculars, listening to the bush’s symphony and picking out a call to confirm his immediate diagnosis. “Ah!” he said, patting his ear in affirmation. “Purple-backed starling,” “Wonderful sighting!” The British seemed ecstatic. I photographed the small bird against a foggy background, his fluffed up white breast feathers contrasted with the rich violet of his back, and he fluttered to a nearby limb where I could really appreciate him. 

Image by Sidra Monreal, cntraveler A magpie shrike in Kruger National Park, South Africa.   

The Magpie Shrike is a noisy bird with wide repertoire of sounds used in complex social behaviour. As territorial calls, it emits loud, mournful whistles “kee-oo, kee-oo.” Occasionally, many birds will call at the same time. The alarm sound is a scolding “chack” or “tchzzrr 

As the trip progressed, I took advantage of the couple’s interest, capturing a variety of birds that my inexperienced eyes would have missed. The diversity of colors and forms found in Namibia’s bird life was incredible, and at each stop, we witnessed behaviors exclusive to that species, and sometimes even more specifically, to their sex and age. I realized, something within me changed. I was more alert to appreciate the intricacy around. Awestruck, I wanted to appreciate every life I came across. 

Do you recall a time when you were first fully entranced by the outdoors? Was there a defining moment that transformed you into a passionate observer nature? This memory was a spark moment. For birders, the concept of a spark moment is especially true. A “Spark Bird” is the bird that helped spark your interest in birding. For me, Purple-backed starling allured me into birding. 

Image by theflacks 

The purple-backed starlings don’t create as much noise as others, and they’re monogamous, meaning they’ll stay together until their spouse dies. 

Returning home, with the urge to know more, I quickly ordered Robert’s Bird Guide, renowned bird’s guide in South Africa. I was intrigued to Jot down how many birds I came across, but also how many I didn’t. 

Have you ever stopped to watch to a meadowlark sing or see a bald eagle swoop down to grab a fish? Take a minute to observe the next time a bird passes overhead. Even in the slow times, there are living, breathing things to be enthusiastic about, whether it’s a modest pigeon at the foot of the Sacré-Cour in Paris or a dazzling quetzal in the woods of Costa Rica

Image by Sidra Monreal, cntravelerA lilac-breasted roller in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Lilac- Breasted Roller, this species is officially considered the national bird of Kenya, a county in Eastern Africa. 

“There are approximately ten thousand species of birds on the planet and no single individual has seen them all.” ― Bernd Brunner. Birds exist in pretty every city and country, although certain places are recognized for their unique species and exceptional birding experiences. Not only does observing birds teach us about their fascinating habits and features, but the activity also helps us slow down the pace of life and appreciate the nature that surrounds us. Costa Rica is famous with birdwatchers as a place to see winged beasts. The Wilson Botanical Gardens in the south, where more than 300 bird species have been recorded, and Curi- Cancha Reserve, where you can spy motmots and trogons while walking seven kilometers of pathways. South Georgia, Kruger National Park, South Africa are another stops to count for the incredible birding experiences.