Here’s a field guide to the typical birders of the Indian sub-continent. See anyone you know?
The Ancient Birder: Grey-haired, bent with age and beer, brimming with decades of birding wisdom, that he readily disburses with or without anyone asking him to. Determined to prove he’s still young at heart, but during field trips will sit in one place and expect the birds to come to him. Sports a pair of ancient binoculars from the early 1900′s and a heavily thumbed field guide published during the British Raj. Suffers from an inability to stop talking about the good old days. Frequently refers to Salim Ali by first name, but will not admit that he has never actually met him.
The Aging Greenhorn: Middle aged, hypertensive, has many worldly worries and an oversmart teenager with expensive tastes. Has discovered late in life that birding is a ready escape from his worries and his teenager, and will make up for his lost years by (a) vigorously participating in every birding event that he can find, (b) purchase a DSLR camera with a full set of long telephoto lenses, (c) realise that he needs a big tripod to hold the camera and long telephoto lens, (d) then realise that he needs someone to hold the tripod that holds his camera and lens, and is obliged to bring along the same oversmart teenager he was escaping from (e) eventually realises it is better to send off his teenager on birding trips and stay home instead.
The Bungling Bachelor: Single, but chronically happy. Filled with love for his fellow man (and especially single women). Excitedly helps other birders whether they need his help or not. Has a stock of off-color jokes that he will loudly narrate on the field, and scare off every bird within 500 meters. Yells loudly and flaps his arms wildly if and when he spots anything. Will cheerfully screw up your shot by walking in front of the camera just as you’re about to click. Cannot identify the few birds he manages to spot, but will never admit he is wrong. Thinks he is the life of the party, but is despised by birders and birds alike. Typical specimen of this class is Yours Truly.
The Grim Spinster: On the wrong side of 35, has remained single because she was pursuing her career and/or because there are no men these days who are willing to ‘commit’. Claims to enjoy being single, but her profile will be found on all leading matrimonial websites. Corporate manager with multiple MBA degrees or high-end academic with at least one PhD degree, lives in her own apartment, drives a 4WD to prove that a woman can drive a man’s car, member of several women ‘empowerment’ groups, knows at least one martial art.
During field trips, grimly guards her virginity against suitors (real or imaginary). Will growl at you, if you so much as glance at her. Will not hesitate to give you details about the number of Romeos that she has slapped/assaulted with slippers/had arrested during her various birding trips.
Sports the heaviest DSLR available, naturally. Invariably accompanied by other equally ferocious spinsters and/or married women with badly frightened husbands. Overall, the most dangerous birder you will come across. Best avoided. The Grim Spinster is such a fearsome birder that even male birds avoid her.
The DSLR Techie: Recently moved into Bangalore, after a long stay in the US. Lives in up-market condo at Marathahalli, owns at least one BMW, has invested in at least three high-end apartments on the new airport road, of which at least one is under litigation. Claims to be modest and humble. Proves his humility by bringing along a top-of-the-line DSLR, one 1000mm telephoto lens, two 600mm lenses, massive tripod and his personal secretary on every birding trip, each of which costs more than your home. But brings all these items in an old car, because he does not want birders to think that he is showing off. Will persistently complain about Bangalore’s vanishing greenery, but expects Bangalore city to be grateful to the IT industry for all the ‘development’ going on.
The SUV Thug: Con-specific to the DSLR Techie, this inspirational type drives around his expensive DSLR equipment in a large SUV. His technique of getting close to birds is to drive over them. His birding method is to harry a bird to death and then take a photo of it. Firmly believes he is doing other birders a favor by flattening the terrain under the tyres of his SUV. Will carry a crate of imported beer and a group of his admirers in his SUV, all of whom will toss out beer cans at regular intervals. This being his idea of leaving his footsteps behind, for other birders to follow.
The Self-styled Pro: Con-specific to the SUV Thug, this variant does his birding strictly for money, but will always claim that ‘money is not everything’. Carries only the latest equipment from Nikon, sneers at Sigma lenses, does not drive anything made in India, instead drives Land Rover or Pajero installed with titanium tripods, will take all his photos from within Rover or Pajero, dresses only in jungle fatigues made by Nike, and is willing to offer his photos only to National Geographic. When questioned why his name has never been seen in NatGeo, will answer that he is published under a pseudonym, but won’t tell you which pseudonym it is.
Rarely spotted indoors, this type makes an appearance during birding conventions, and is always sunburned and smells faintly of sweat and dirt. Will grudgingly accept any awards bestowed on him, refuse to make an acceptance speech and insist that ‘money is not everything’. Claims he shuns publicity, but makes frequent appearances on local TV channels, a habit he shares with the Ancient Birder.
The Leering Layman: Has no interest in birds, but has a lot of interest in birders, especially those of the opposite gender. Will frequently make jokes like, “I am a birdwatcher, just like you. But I watch unfeathered birds. Heh, heh, heh”. During field trips, will poke and nudge, wink and leer. Will train his binocs at birders rather than birds, when he thinks no one is looking. Remains unaffected by angry glares and slaps to his face. Always attends every birding event, though no one has really invited him.
The Precocious Teen: Filled with enthu, eager to learn, packed with new ideas and electronic gadgets. Has not less than 1000 friends on Facebook, but is astonished when told that birds can twitter too. Carries one entry-level DSLR camera, one pair of dainty binoculars, one iPod, one iPad, and one Blackberry, and can use all of them simultaneously. Bursting with questions about the birds and the bees, can spot a warbler at two hundred paces and will share intimate details about warbler’s mating habits. Hangs to every word expounded by the Ancient Birder, and is usually his only audience.