Experience has taught me that all too often places that are hyped as birding hotspots don’t live up to their reputations. Nothing has underscored it quite like the last week here in a part of the world touted as one of the best birding regions on the planet.
After spending the past week visiting just about every reputed hotspot within a fifty-mile radius, I spent entire days looking and coming home with an empty SD card. This is in stark contrast with the previous week, spent in a non-touristy area a bit farther south, when every day I came back with photos of at least one new friend, and many photos of old friends.
After visiting yet another hyped spot this afternoon, a mangrove walk near the coastline, and coming back with nearly nothing, I took a stroll from my place of abode over to the local beach park. Forget the dozen or so species of shore birds foraging on the mud flats. In just the trees alone at the quieter end of the park, a totally unadvertised area, I spotted at least twenty species within an hour, including one new friend.
This reminds me of a trip with friends to Sarawak almost a decade ago, before which I was told there’d be hornbills literally everywhere. Instead, the closest thing I saw to a hornbill there were the feathers of one worn in the headdress of a local performer. Apparently their habitat had been almost totally destroyed over the previous two decades by the logging industry.
Going into a place with modest or no expectations, as with the southward locale, left me feeling very appreciative of what I’d found and photographed. Same with the quiet end of the park today. Otherwise, it’s a vastly different story. I’m feeling a bit like Charlie Brown after Lucy yanks the football off the tee for the umpteenth time. Unlike the character, though, I won’t be fooled again.