From birdwatching to birding: Tips for how to become a birder

Over the previous a number of months, I’ve met individuals who have learn the tales I did about birds. A number of have requested questions on methods to get began birding. Right here’s what I’ve found to date. I hope it encourages you to begin a brand new passion . . . birding.

It appears to me that there are a minimum of two sorts of chicken observers––chicken watchers and birders. For enjoyable, I googled the distinction and located that my understanding is shared by many. Hen watchers have a tendency to look at the birds whereas they’re touring or sitting on the deck. Birders plan journeys to go to locations to see birds. As Bob Duchesne, vp of Essential Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter, explains, “It’s the distinction between passive and lively.” It’s just like the distinction of watching golf or soccer on the tv, or really enjoying golf or soccer. I encourage you to learn the remainder of Duchesne’s article. It feels so true to me.

The opposite distinction I see between chicken watching and birding is the intentionality stage of each. Hen watching simply appears to occur, whereas birding is deliberate. With that comparability said, right here’s what I’ve found about planning to go birding.

First, there are particular issues you might want to put money into as a birder – not many however every are vital:

  1. Good, lightweight binoculars. I began with an outdated pair of binoculars we already had. They have been heavy and harm my neck. Extra importantly, I couldn’t actually see something via them. I assumed it was simply my diminishing eye-sight, till I used a pal’s binoculars for some time. Her binoculars, in comparison with what I had been utilizing, have been as totally different as night time and day. Bob and I researched what was out there within the worth vary I used to be comfy with, narrowed my decisions down to 3, after which tried all of them out. I now have a extremely good pair of binoculars which can be light-weight to hold and to carry as much as my eyes, and that permit me to see birds which can be even behind leaves in a tree. If you wish to be a birder, spend your cash on binoculars.
  2. A very good guide on birding. Birding books usually are not that costly, and there are tons to select from. I’ve found, nonetheless, that you just don’t want many. The truth is, my birding pal Craig Taylor swears you solely want one––Sibley Birds East (or Sibley Birds West, relying on which aspect of the US you reside in).
  3. Merlin Hen ID. This free app is sponsored by The Cornell Lab and means that you can seek for a chicken identification by descriptors you see or by scrolling via birds that may be seen in a particular space.
  4. A large-brimmed hat or visor. Birds are sometimes up within the sky or excessive in a tree. Trying into the solar is brutal. A very good hat or visor will develop into your greatest pal whereas birding.
  5. A small pocket book and pen/pencil. Have a delegated place to listing your chicken identifications. Many birders maintain lists by date and birding location to allow them to consider how profitable totally different birding alternatives have been.
  6. Non-obligatory: An outside journey/exercise vest. Critically, I’ve simply bought my first one, and I’m enthusiastic about it. As we go birding, I carry my binoculars, my digicam and a minimum of two lenses, additional SD playing cards for the digicam, paper and a pen to maintain observe of what we see, my telephone so I can use the Merlin Hen ID app as we go, and a protein bar so I don’t develop into a whiner. I don’t have sufficient fingers or pockets in my denims to maintain up with every thing. I discovered the proper journey vest for me from Eddie Bauer that was greater than 50% discounted. Rating.
  7. Non-obligatory firstly: A digicam with a telephoto lens. We discovered that we needed the chance to {photograph} the birds we noticed. It’s one other entire talent set, so it’s not essential to put money into it as you start, however you could wish to accomplish that ultimately. It took me solely 4 months earlier than I used to be able to get a telephoto lens.
Birding with pals is a superb solution to get began. (Picture by Bob Williamson)

Second, work together with your binoculars to develop three primary expertise:

  1. That is most likely a no brainer, however study to make use of your binoculars. Birds fly within the sky and hop from department to department. It’s tough to search out them via your binoculars whenever you first begin. As an alternative, find the chicken together with your eyes, maintain your eyes on it, after which increase the binoculars to your eyes. It takes observe!
  2. Be taught a brand new tempo for strolling. Birding isn’t train. You gained’t get your coronary heart price up, however you’ll strengthen your endurance. Pay attention for a chicken to sing or name after which comply with that sound. It takes observe and endurance to attend for the chicken to name once more or to make a transfer massive sufficient that the leaves will stir.
  3. Be taught the traits to give attention to to make chicken IDs. Audubon offers 5 traits that birders search for: the general dimension and form of the chicken; the chicken’s invoice–size and form; the markings on the chicken’s feathers; and the way the chicken acts. For instance, we couldn’t determine totally different geese from a protracted distance away, however Craig might from a cell-phone photograph by the form of the physique alone. This takes time!!

Third, plan on your outing:

  1. To begin, start with an outing of an hour or so. Use the Merlin Hen ID app and seek for birds which can be being seen within the space you’ll be in. The app will present you attainable birds within the space by designating if the birds are widespread, unusual, or uncommon by location. Develop into conversant in the birds you’re more likely to see. Completely different birds are interested in totally different habitats, so take note of which birds are seen on the bottom or in bushes, that are seen in timber, and that are discovered close to water. It may assist in figuring out what you see.
  2. Birds are extra lively within the morning and within the late afternoon. At mid-day, they have an inclination to vanish and get quiet. Plan your time accordingly.
  3. Pack water, sunscreen, and snacks. Put on comfy strolling footwear, and costume in layers if the temperature will change.
  4. Put on clothes that has delicate coloring. Keep away from brilliant colours. Some consultants really feel the birds can see brilliant colours as a risk. We are inclined to put on gentle blues, grays, and greens.
  5. Pay attention to the ethics of birding. Discuss softly so that you don’t scare off the birds. Pay attention to different birders and don’t intrude with what they’re doing. Don’t get too near the birds or do something that can interrupt what the birds are doing. There are others put collectively by the American Hen Affiliation. Take time to learn them.
  6. Bob suggests you view the film The Large 12 months, starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin. It’s a tongue-in-cheek have a look at three birders who’re attempting to set a report for seeing probably the most species of birds in a single 12 months. It’s enjoyable and will provide you with some thought of the passion. Simply understand that it’s somewhat over-the-top!
It’s by no means too early or late to introduce birding to others. (Picture by Jenna Shaw)

Fourth, after birding, do two issues:

  1. Examine your listing of recognized birds to the knowledge in your chicken information. Be sure that the images, pictures, and knowledge verify your chicken identification. The issue in identification is that some birds have totally different coloured plumage at totally different occasions of the 12 months. You’ll even have to acknowledge each the feminine and male of every species, and acknowledge juvenile birds of every species that will or could not appear to be their dad and mom at that stage. There’s additionally a distinction in some species between breeding and non-breeding males. It’s rather a lot to study and takes time. Craig Taylor takes pictures of each chicken sighting attainable so he can enlarge the photograph to see extra particulars. His numbers of birds really went down the primary couple of years as he bought extra correct with identifications. It’s straightforward as a starting birder to combine up chicken IDs.
  2. Be sure that to listing the birds you’ve recognized. Most birders maintain a minimum of two lists––a listing of the birds they’ve seen that 12 months, and a life listing that compiles birds over time to trace what number of species you’ve seen. Birding is sort of a year-long scavenger hunt that begins over once more the following 12 months.

On the Merlin app, you too can log the birds you see and it creates your lists for you. I like to have the ability to verify my lists after a chicken outing. Final 12 months, in 9 months, we noticed 106 totally different species. This 12 months, in simply over three months, we’ve seen greater than that already. Our purpose for 2021 is 200 species, however I feel (hope?) we’ll go well beyond that.

We began out with success domestically in two areas–the Clarkesville Greenway and Smithgall State Park. At Smithgall, stroll on the asphalt highway that’s closed to site visitors to the wetland space. Each areas have water birds, migrating birds, and everlasting birds.

I’ll go away you with one warning: Birding is habit-forming and life-transforming. Proceed with warning!

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