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Do you think of birdwatching as being about as interesting as watching paint dry? Well then, it may surprise you to know how entertaining birdwatching can be! Birdwatching can be engaging, relaxing and offer several other benefits as well.

The common perception of ornithologists (those who study birds) may be of serious, silent individuals carrying about some rather strange equipment, but you should know that all bird watching is not ornithology. In fact, the informal activity of birdwatching has become quite popular for social and recreational reasons in recent times. Birdwatching can be great for kids, can sharpen the senses and help everyone in the family understand a bit more about the way that ecology works.

Birdwatching is a great activity for the entire family

Firstly, birdwatching gets kids out and into the open – away from all the handheld gadgets, TVs and other gizmos. It helps kids develop an appreciation for nature. Parents can get kids interested in birdwatching early in life so that they (and the parents) understand a bit about native species, the way they interact with the environment and the way they contribute to maintaining the ecological balance of the area. Birdwatching may involve some amount of trekking across wooded areas of grasslands, up hills and along coastlines, making it an enjoyable workout for the whole family.

Birdwatching sharpens the senses

You are required to rely not just on your visual senses but also your sense of hearing to know about the location of birds and to indentify the species. Birdwatching is not just about keen eyesight or about using telescopes and binoculars to spot birds that may be hidden – naturally and beautifully camouflaged by nature – in the branches of trees, among the reeds and bushes or in cliff walls and other natural habitats. It is also about hearing and identifying various bird calls and understanding what the different types of sounds mean. This is an activity that requires patience and needs observers to be quiet and respectful of their environment. These can be very valuable lessons for kids indeed!

Birdwatching is very relaxing

The very fact that this activity needs you to be still, silent and patient, teaches you concentration and helps you focus better. With the natural habitat all around and none of the sights and sounds of the artificial manmade world to intrude, you will be able to feel the fatigue of everyday melting away. On a daily basis, we suffer from a sensory overload that we may not even be aware of. As you tune in to natural sounds, with none of the cacophony of traffic and hawkers and gadgets to detract from them, you will begin to appreciate the value of silence and appreciate the joy of the sounds Mother Nature makes.

You will learn to identify the twittering of birds that move in groups, the plaintive cry of a particular bird’s mating call, the rewarding sound of a rare or migratory bird. Finding out about birds’ nesting habits, their feeding patterns, spotting an unusual bird…all this is very satisfying. Quite simply, a few days spent outdoors and away from so-called civilization may be just the relaxation technique that your doctor ordered!

Other benefits of birdwatching

Participating in birdwatching activities also helps you meet new people and fosters a sense of community. You may learn a lot from likeminded people who also care about the ecology and are looking to connect with nature in a healthy way. Get tips from the more experienced and dedicated birdwatchers and find out how to cause minimum damage and disturbance to the fragile ecology of the bird sanctuary you’re visiting. You will learn why it is vital to leave the environment as untouched as possible: not to make noise, litter or damage flora and fauna in any way.

Tips for birdwatching in India

There are a number of birdwatching sites close to and even in Delhi making it an easy and refreshing weekend getaway or even a day’s outing. Sultanpur National Park and Basai Wetland in Gurgaon, Surajpur Wetland and Biodiversity park in Greater Noida, KG Wetlands at Palwal, Shesh Sai at Hodal, Dighal at Bahadurgarh, the Aravali Biodiversity Park at Vasant Vihar, the Yamuna Biodiversity Park on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi and Delhi Zoo are some of the recommendations.

People from all over India come to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan (about an hour’s drive from Agra) to view migratory birds, rare Indian birds and to view firsthand the way birds interact with their natural habitat. Jim Corbett National Park may be known more for tiger spotting but it is excellent for birdwatching as well. Chilka Lake in Odisha and Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat are some other world-renowned birdwatching destinations that attract Indians and foreigners alike. In addition, there is the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary in Kerala, Eaglenest Sanctuary in Arunachal, and the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka that offer up even more options depending upon where you are.

So go ahead and try some birdwatching – you have nothing to lose but your stress!

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Sarika Periwal is a writer and entrepreneur with a love for the outdoors and taking the untrodden path. Run-of-the-mill simply doesn't do it for her. When she's not in front of her computer, she's probably out there scaling some mountain. Fueled by a hunger to know more, she devours the written word. She lives by the words - 'If it ain't tough, it ain't worth doing!'