Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary

Sitting: A Naturalist's Guide

Mark Brazil|July 20, 2007|Blog Post

As a child I dreamed of watching wild creatures, especially mammals, but with no one to learn from, I was left to my own devices to find ways to do so. Youthful interests tend toward the energetic, so it was by bicycle that I explored my home county of Worcestershire in central England. However, the scarcity of wild, diurnal mammals near my home led me to become a naturalist with a strong leaning toward birds, and my abundant energy led me to be constantly on the move--eager to know what was around the next corner.

Thanks to a chance encounter with a naturalist of a very different generation, and with a different focus, I was able to shortcircuit several decades of experience. Dick Orton, a keen angler with a lifelong passion for birds of prey, taught me much about patience and stamina. Our early encounters were based around my simple inquiry, "Is there anything interesting about?" This soon led to longer bird chats and ultimately to many invitations to join him and his wife on wildlife-watching excursions very different from my own.

With military precision Dick would pore over maps, plan an approach, and choose an OP (observation position). We would set off by car early in the morning, often followed by a long trudge across open country to a hilltop or flank commanding a view across vales and hills, and which ended in us settling in for the best part of the day. Out came folding chairs, waterproofs, thermoses of strong tea, sandwiches, and binoculars. We settled down quietly, and we sat. It was an entirely new experience for me and went against the teenage grain of rushing about in pursuit of new sightings. But it was exciting.

A whispered "sparrow hawk, female, over the far ridge," or "merlin jinking up the valley, passing the hawthorn tree in blossom" might break our meditative silence, and our binoculars were instantly trained in the same direction until the bird was lost to sight, and we sank back into our alert state of reverie. This was sit-andwait natural history, and thanks to Dick I learned of its benefits many years before I might have otherwise. Fishermen and hunters are no strangers to this technique, but the thrill of using it for observing wildlife in close proximity are indescribable. Through the years, in the company of friends and naturalists, I have enjoyed countless "big sits" with rewards as delightful as badgers encircling us in the dark in a Hertfordshire forest and the ghostly sighting of unlikely wapiti deer on a remote island in the Sea of Japan. One of my most prized moments happened in the Falklands when I lay down, pretending to sleep, near a colony of king penguins...and curiosity eventually led quite a crowd over to investigate.

As an expedition leader and naturalist, I have the good fortune to travel frequently, and to some of the world's prime bird and wildlife sighting spots, and I encourage the patient observation technique taught to me long ago by my good friend. You never know what will turn up, and the excitement is its own best reward. 

Related Blog Posts

  • Havana, Cuba
    Blog Post

    Zegrahm Goes 5 for 9 in Cuba

    September 28, 2016 | Blog Post

    For an island smaller in size than the state of Pennsylvania, Cuba looms large on the world heritage stage with nine UNESCO-designated sites—more than Egypt, Vietnam, or all of Indonesia. Fortunately for Zegrahm travelers, we visit more than half of them on upcoming excursions to the Caribbean nation.

    Read More

    Gibara, Cuba
    Blog Post

    Cuba el Unico

    September 27, 2016 | Blog Post

    Since the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in 2015, it seems just about everyone is clamoring to escort Americans around the enigmatic Caribbean island; even mega cruise lines have gotten on the act.

    Read More

    Cuban Emerald, Cuba
    Video

    Part 2 - Cuba: A Conversation with Nadia Eckhard & Rich Pagen

    September 27, 2016 | Video

    Our conversation with Expedition Leaders Nadia Eckhardt and Rich Pagen continues! Watch as they describe some of the activities you'll be able to participate in during our expeditions to Cuba, including snorkeling and diving, and visits to local museums.

    Read More

  • Havana, Cuba
    Video

    Cuba: A Conversation with Nadia Eckhardt & Rich Pagen

    September 26, 2016 | Video

    Expedition Leaders Nadia Eckhardt and Rich Pagen joined us in the Zegrahm office recently to discuss all things Cuba. Watch as they describe our upcoming expeditions to the island country, the local cuisine, and why NOW is the time to discover Cuba.

    Read More

    Floreana Island
    Blog Post

    Ultimate Galapagos 2016 Field Report

    September 16, 2016 | Blog Post

    Thursday & Friday, July 14 & 15, 2016 - Depart USA / Guayaquíl, Ecuador / Baltra, Galápagos Islands / Santa Cruz / Embark Isabela II

    Read More

    Halong Bay, Vietnam
    Blog Post

    A Different View of Vietnam

    September 13, 2016 | Blog Post

    Travelers looking to experience Vietnam by ship have, until now, been limited to two choices: Visit the country’s interior on an intimate voyage along the Mekong River, or cruise along the country’s coastline onboard a larger, less-personable vessel. 

    Read More

  • Mongolian Wrestling Match
    Blog Post

    Mongolia's Naadam Festival

    September 8, 2016 | Blog Post

    Tese Neighbor has a Masters degree in Asia Studies, and has been teaching contemporary Asian history for the past 30 years. She first visited Inner Mongolia in 1982 when she was living in Beijing, China, and has returned to the Gobi Desert numerous times.

    Read More

    Mongolian Steepe
    Blog Post

    Can Drones Help Monitor Vultures on Mongolia's Eastern Steppe?

    August 31, 2016 | Blog Post

    This blog originally appeared on Cool Green Science, the science blog of The Nature Conservancy. 

    Read More

    Cruising the Mekong River
    Blog Post

    Quick Take: Finding Balance on the Mekong River

    August 31, 2016 | Blog Post

    This blog originally appeared on Cool Green Science, the science blog of The Nature Conservancy. 

    Read More

  • Lidth's Jays, Japan
    Blog Post

    Taking a "Green Shower" in Japan

    August 24, 2016 | Blog Post

    Mark Brazil developed his fascination with the natural world, especially birds and mammals, during his boyhood in the landlocked English county of Worcestershire.

    Read More

    Mike Moore
    Blog Post

    Michael Moore Earns Rave Reviews

    August 22, 2016 | Blog Post

    The reviews are in: Michael Moore has another hit on his hands.

    Read More