At one unguarded moment or another, every person fantasizes about turning a passion into an occupation. “What could be better,” you might muse, “that to be able to read romance novels (or watch YouTube videos or host dinner parties, etc.) for a living!” Surely, those that have found a way to be compensated to do what you are willing to do for free must lead magically fulfilled lives. Or do they?
When it comes to birding, it may be difficult at first glance to distinguish what sets professional tour leaders apart from those gifted folks that lead walks for the local bird clubs for free or a nominal fee. Some birders actually become indignant at the thought of forking over cash for guidance when they’ve got a perfectly good field guide stashed in the big pocket of their khaki vest. But then comes that ineffable moment when you actually work with a professional guide, when wisdom descends in a shower of life birds and you realize just how tough it is to be a pro-birder!
I’m in no position to talk about how well the job of professional birding tour guide pays but I can attest that any guide I’ve ever met has earned his or her bread many times over. Birding guides need an intuitive, if not indigenous mastery of the terrain they cover. They require a breadth of knowledge encompassing ornithology, entomology, botany, cartography, and about 20 more –ologies and –ographies. The eyes of an eagle, ears of a bat, and patience of a saint don’t hurt either, nor does a mean Scrabble game. I don’t know if you bring these essential attributes to the table but Amila Salgado of BIRDWING Nature Holidays certainly does, which goes a long way to explain why so many visitors rely on him to show off the splendors of Sri Lanka. I’ve never been to Sri Lanka myself (yet!) but fortunately, Amila possesses another invaluable gift: the ability to blog engagingly about his adventures. If you’ve never visited Gallicissa, prepare yourself for an onslaught of exotic avifauna the likes of which might send you scrambling to your nearest travel agent to book passage. But before you start packing, take the time to enjoy Amila’s exceptional, inquisitive presentation of I and the Bird #75!
Part of what makes Amila’s edition of IATB so much fun is that he’s giving away some spectacular books. Coincidentally, so are we at 10,000 Birds. Our friends at Houghton Mifflin have seen fit to entrust us with three copies of The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by Bill Thompson III to give away as we see fit. So, true to form, we’ve put together a giveaway that’s fun for the whole family, kids and adults alike. Check out the details on our site. Just don’t let participation keep you from your usual rounds of bird blogging because the next I and the Bird is hosted by none other than Wanderin’ Weeta up in British Columbia. Get the links and summaries of your best posts on birding and wild birds to me or Susannah (susannah AT dccnet DOT com) by Tuesday, May 27 for the 5/29 edition!