How to go birding in an unfamiliar country
I have only had a limited experience at birding in an unfamiliar country. In late 2005 and early 2006 I spent four days in Thailand and three weeks in Nepal. A handful of species were easily identified; I recognized them from birds I’d seen here in Australia. Most species were a struggle to identify, despite doing over six months of study in the relevant field guides before leaving home.
Many birders would recommend hiring local birding guides. These guides have local knowledge about where to find the best birds and most will be able to show you the best ways to identify what you are seeing. I only had the benefit of a local guide on two occasions. He was made available as part of the package deal from the travel agent I used. He was actually a general guide but his specialty happened to be birds; this was a bonus for me.
For birders travelling on a restricted budget, hiring a guide may be out of the question. The next best thing is to access someone through Birding Pals. This is a worldwide service provided to travellers who are birders. I understand that this is largely a volunteer service to birders everywhere.
Disclaimer: I haven’t used the service provided in this way, so I cannot say whether or not it is a worthwhile way to go. It just sounds like a great way of contacting and meeting fellow birders in another country. If any of my readers has any experience of Birding Pals, good, bad or indifferent, please leave a comment for the benefit of others.