The Nature of Being

by Faraaz Abdool, Class Instructor and Ecotour Guide

We are all creatures of nature and instinctually turn to the natural world for inspiration and peace. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all love nature. Having a connection to nature is essential for us to find our way through the most trying of times. Birds in particular help us by their constant presence in our lives.

No matter where we are, birds form part of the landscape. As I sit here in a suburb in Trinidad, a Copper-rumped Hummingbird zooms past on its feeding circuit, and a pair of Great Kiskadees have a territorial dispute, their shrill cries piercing the thick afternoon air. Buoyed by the avian interruption, I can’t help but smile.

A Tufted Coquette, a tiny and brilliant orange and green hummingbird is sipping nectar from a magenta flower.
Tufted Coquette, photo by Faraaz Abdool

This is the joy that birding brings. Books, academic papers, and poems have been written, conversations have been had, songs have been sung, all extolling the benefits of being in nature. From mental health to overall wellbeing, it seems birds can’t avoid lifting our spirits. Reaping the best benefits from this involves a specific approach, however.

There is a subtle difference between “listening for birds” and “listening to birds”—but this initially minute diversion can potentially have far-reaching consequences on the psyche. One implies a pursuit while the other conjures images of whistles and trills—the intricate melodies of birdsong—gently falling on receptive ears. The former involves active observation; the latter, passive. Surely, both methodologies have their place. However, the passive observation of birds—and nature in general—holds the key to the cultivation of a deeper connection with ourselves.

Why must there be a deeper connection? At this pivotal moment in time, there cannot be too many environmental stewards. Those who speak for nature can theoretically include every one of us, and this is what passively observing nature induces. Specifically, this practice of being in nature encourages the observer to see beauty and commonality in all things. Cascading from this are forms of love and kindness, which in turn help to craft the most ardent of activists among us.

On a personal note, this is the very process that motivated me to move house and set up our little family in an eco-lodge in Tobago. Cuffie River Nature Retreat was our home for a year, during which we worked on content creation to promote nature-based tourism in the recently declared North-East Tobago Biosphere Reserve. While there, I crossed paths with Erin Law and a wonderful group of birders from Bird Alliance of Oregon on their much-anticipated birding trip to T&T. There was an immediate synergy among us facilitated in no small way by our shared ethos of responsible interaction with the natural world as well as the group’s genuine interest in the project I was working on.

I am happy to host Bird Alliance of Oregon on another ecotour to Trinidad & Tobago, April 1-15, 2024. April is the prime window to visit T&T, as there will be a mixture of migrants from both the northern and southern hemispheres present, as well as resident birds well into their courtship rituals. Many birds will be in their breeding plumage. April also marks the transition between tropicbird and tern breeding season, so expect the most diverse mix of breeding seabirds on the offshore islands. As an exceptionally incredible bonus, this also coincides with the nesting season of Leatherback Turtles!

Faraaz Abdool