1. Two more sparrows on the macadam ahead of me… In my early birding days, I would simply assume that they are sparrows, possibly not even taking another look at them, but now I am too old to be so naive. Lowering my binoculars and focusing through a dusty windscreen… indeed, one of them is a handsome Tree Sparrow, but the other one is a bit darker and bigger and not a sparrow at all, but a Corn Bunting.

Two hundred metres further, I have a similar situation: a Turtle Dove walking, one sparrow-like bird next to her and something bigger dusting itself in the background. That “something bigger” shows a crest and turns out to be a Crested Lark, while this “sparrow” becomes a lovely Ortolan Bunting (cover photo)! Not so long ago, Ortolans were as common as Corn Buntings still are in this part of Europe (not so in the north), but somewhere during the 1980s they plummeted to become rather uncommon birds of the rural countryside.


Afterwards, I am using the eBird android application for the first time, not as it was probably meant – in the field instead of a pen and a notebook, but in the garden, having a Turkish coffee and sljivovica (plum brandy – but home-made, as the best varieties are). I may try to use it in the field the next time, but am still suspicious of it: I find it faster to write down a name code (in my case, the first three letters of a genus and the first three letters of a species name) plus a figure, than to press the touch screen. Some birding friends of mine do use it in the field and are happy with it, but I am still reluctant to go completely electronic and skip the paper…

The simple explanation may be, the battery in my notebook never goes flat, but there is more to it: I write faster than I click. And so, I am sitting in the shade of apple and pear trees as old as I am (I really do not know why I hear comments that those trees are too old to bear fruit!) and entering observations into the eBird application on my smartphone.

It is fairly quick, I admit it, but once I finished and sent the list, I realised that I missed the line and have seen twice as many Barn Swallows than I entered, only to discover that I have to log into my eBird account online to make the changes… which I didn’t want to, so it is waiting for the end of a weekend, when I get home.

The next phase was a series of hour long garden stationary counts that I entered into the application only and not into my notebook. It worked reasonably well, but, again, I am not sure I would not be more comfortable with paper and pen.

Still, I am addicted to eBird, not only to store and organise my data, but also for the feedback that I get from it.


Contemplating birding in the time of economic crisis… Less funds would mean less affordable petrol and consequently, birding not as often as I would like to? That is what I thought of it, but this spring I do feel the crisis more intensively, and my response is not to bird less, but more!

Adapting to the situation, I rarely go to those better-known reserves which I used to visit, some 50 to 80 km / 30 to 50 mi from the city. This spring I birded more often than before, focusing on the city outskirts, sometimes among hookers and drug dealers, but still finding some surprising, uncommon or rare birds and exploring new areas that I had no clue they still exist so close to home.

It actually makes perfect sense. My response to additional stress is – bird more and not less.

Cover photo: Ortolan Bunting in the Danube Delta, Romania, by Andrej Chudy – Wikimedia Commons

Written by Dragan
Dragan Simic is obsessively passionate about two things – birding and travelling in search of birds, and that has taken him from his native Balkans to the far shores of Europe and the Mediterranean, southern Africa, India and Latin America. His 10,000 Birds blog posts were Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. Birder by passion and environmental scientist by education, he is an ecotourism consultant, a field researcher and a bird blogger who always thinks that birding must be better behind that next bend in the road, and that the best bird ever is – the next lifer. He tweets as @albicilla66