Towards responsible birdwatching

12/05/2014 | 0:00 | Birdwatching or birding is the observation of wild birds, generally in natural habitats. We give you some pieces of advice to take into account when practicing this activity.


Already in 2009, it was estimated that only in Argentina more than 45,000 foreign tourists observed any of the country's 1,000 bird species when they visited the country. This tourist activity that is increasingly growing and represents a responsible way of travelling has to be carried out in a friendly way following some techniques to avoid disturbing the environment.
In general, people that enjoy this activity have already developed a special approach towards environmental conservation but, with the intention of achieving the best birdwatching experience, some of them could suddenly "forget" about all precautions that must be observed towards this extremely fragile resource.
Which are the premises that make this activity so special? First of all, many bird species observed are scarce in the world or are in danger of extinction. Besides, they tend to be endemic species; that is, we can find them in that particular area. They are attractive due to their colorful plumage, singing or habits and we can see them in flocks.
As we can see, they are precisely the same reasons that, on the other hand, cause bird species to be vulnerable resources that we need to take care of. Our inadequate behaviours can affect birds in different ways. For instance, in the case of birds that form colonies, uncontrolled visits can have negative effects on reproduction causing birds to abandon the nest or the colony. In other cases, we can make them abandon their feeding or resting sites or affect their fragile habitat leading, for instance, to the loss of its vegetation cover.
Below we provide some tips for carrying out responsible birdwatching activities:
· Always move slowly and in small groups. Keep calm and avoid shouting and making abrupt movements.
· Do not take pets with you (dogs or cats).
· Maintain an appropriate observation distance. This will depend on the species as some of them will become agitated more quickly than others. If there are no signs in the area as regards the approximation distance that you should respect, consult the guide or specialized local. If this is not possible, get closer up to a distance that does not mean a different behaviour in the fauna you are watching.
· Tourist groups must be led by a group leader, whether it is a tourist guide, a fauna keeper or an accredited environmental interpreter.
· Do not enter into bird reproductive colonies nor travel through their nests if access to these colonies has been prohibited for tourists.
· Use optical devices, such as binoculars or a telescope, to achieve good observation quality without having to be "next" to the species you want to observe.
· If you want to observe birds that build nests on islands, always go with the guide or fauna keeper.
· If islands are small, it would be ideal not to disembark and carry out the birdwatching activity from the boat or the closest coast.
· For birdwatching on islands or cliffs from a boat, approach birds in a quiet way or turn off the boat engine.
· Disembark only in allowed areas with small groups of no more than eight people including the leader.
· Avoid destroying or modifying soil and vegetation.
· Do not light a fire in non-permissible areas.
· Walk on delimited paths if any. In flooded areas, walk on over-elevated paths. Do not move away from the group nor invade unauthorized areas (which can also be dangerous for you).
· Observe and respect signs which in some cases give valuable information for birdwatching in that area.
· Get the most of lookouts or observatories specially designed for fauna watching.
· Use a bird guide. Many places have illustrated guides or specific brochures that contain information about the site's birds to identify them easier and know more about their life history.
Birdwatching requires different levels of care; however, this should not stop you from enjoying it or starting practicing it. On the contrary, we should only be more aware of our actions to let future generations enjoy birds' presence as we do it today.

For more information, please visit the website of the NGO Aves Argentinas where you will find different information about this topic as well as tips about the best places for practicing birdwatching in the country.





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