Do you dream of holidaying at sewage farms, in mosquito-infested swamps and impenetrable jungle?
Yeah, me too. It’s a birder thing. We want to go where the birds are, and with our precious week or two of annual holiday we don’t want to be wasting our time visiting interesting cities or historic sites, theme parks and child-friendly beaches.
The trouble is, many of us fall in love with non-birders and often settle into domesticity producing the regulation 2.4 children, at least 2.3 of whom would rather be grounded for a month than go on a walk in the countryside, and if required to go on a wildlife holiday would try and divorce their parents. Besides, your better half of whatever gender would also be interviewing divorce lawyers if you spent the vacation fund in selfish pursuit of lifers or dreamed-about rarities.
It will be your lot to suck it up when Disneyland beckons or when hints are dropped persistently about New York shopping trips or second honeymoons in Paris or Rio. You need to lay the solid foundations of selfless sacrifice if you are to ever be allowed a long weekend birding with your mates or wilderness holiday when the kids are off your hands.
DO NOT DESPAIR!
There is a middle way once a year or two of selflessness are under your many-pocketed birder’s belt.
Careful planning, ingenuity and a smidgen of sneakiness could pave the way to a happy family holiday with a hidden birding agenda. Here’s how the choices go:
1. Two-center holiday destinations: The two centers here are pedo-centric and egocentric. The former is not some horrible criminal perversion! I merely mean a destination that suits the kids. The second is to make sure it is also one that suits the inner birder. If the kids are happy then the non-birding spouse will also be happy. The best places are somewhere the kids can safely do their thing while your non-birding significant other idles on a lounger with a trashy novel, a glass of vino or cool beer, and a basting of suntan cream. There are such places where, not a stones throw away there are walks, wetlands, and woods worth birding.
2. Together at a fond distance: This will take some skilled and delicate preparation. The idea is that you should all be together, but not all the time. Each should have “us time” and “me time.” The positive nature of spending time apart needs to be sold without making it look like you can’t abide time spent with the family, or that you are going to sneak off for an affair with a chalet maid or barkeep. Two-center destinations lend themselves to this idea but need reinforcing with a daily “family time” and, if possible, an evening “partner time.” Depending on the sort of vacation you have this could mean family dinners at an agreed upon eatery or mornings spent rock-pooling or game playing. After the kids are in bed you will definitely not be polishing your optics or writing up the list of birds seen in the day, but on the couch, nestling up to your loved one with a libation and soft music. Prove that the pursuit of plovers can be put aside for lovers.
3. Democratic days: Family vacations can be a chance for the whole family to try something new. Everyone has to commit to partaking in the daily choice. If the youngest child wants to go to a cartoon fest then everyone has to be prepared to indulge. If the techie teenager wants to gawp at the latest gadgets, ma and pa must do their best to join in. This way we birders can try and accidentally brainwash the rest of the family by a carefully chosen avi-centric activity. Choose carefully; a 10-mile hike looking for an endemic LBJ (little brown job) is not going to change hearts and minds, but getting up close and personal to the birds everyone loves (parrots, puffins, and penguins—or a scarlet ibis—spring to mind) might just lay the foundations of a birder’s future.
Destinations are going to depend on your location and the depths of your pockets, but here are a few that can meet collective needs.
- Florida. Orlando has Disney on tap but also offers Florida jays, burrowing owls, limpkins and swallow-tail kites. Within a half-day’s birding and there are plenty of guides or local birders you can hook up with while your partner is being trailed around roller coasters and other rides. (I had the time of my birding life there. While my wife, daughter, and granddaughter were gaping at Cinderella’s Castle I was lapping up the fallout arrivals on Florida’s Gulf Coast.)
- Mediterranean Islands. Take your pick, Majorca, Cyprus, Lesbos, Crete, Corsica, and others offer sun, sea, markets and water parks and great birding at any time of year. (As an example, the beach resort of Alcudia is one kilometer from Majorca wonderful S’Albufera Nature Reserve and a stone’s throw from the raptor-rich Boquer Valley.)
- Trinidad & Tobago. Package beach holidays galore and some of the best birding in the Caribbean. Laze on a Tobago beach and gaze out at the frigate- and tropicbirds on Little Tobago.
Let me know if you’ve cracked this nut with an ideal family destination with a hidden birding agenda.
About the Author
Bo Beolens is best known in birding circles for his extensive web presence: Fat Birder - one of the world’s biggest and most-used on-line resources for birders and Birding Top 1000 lists the top birding websites by their popularity. He also has a monthly column in a UK birding magazine as The Grumpy Old Birder and has written articles in BWD and other magazines. He has had seven books published and more are in final edit… ‘The Eponym Dictionary of Birds’ came out in time for the British Bird Fair in August 2014. He also champions birders with mobility problems setting up a charity in 2001 Birding For All Having birded on six continents he also organises trips for others via his Anytime Tours website. If he ever gets time he goes birding! His wife Maggie and son Ash are keen birders but the rest of their children and some of their five grandchildren (21, 14, 12, 10, 5) have yet to be convinced... although two are now showing a healthy interest! Having reached the magical age of 65 Bo has recently launched a new BLOG: Angry Old Bloke