Monday, January 27, 2014

Tips for beginning birdwatchers - Bill Thompson, III

  1. Get a decent pair of binoculars, one that is easy for you to use and hold steady.
  2. Find a field guide to the birds of your region. (Many guides, like this one, cover only eastern or western North America.) Guides that cover all the birds of North America contain many species that are uncommon or entirely absent from your area. You can always upgrade to a continent-wide guide later.
  3. Set up a basic feeding station in your yard or garden.
  4. Start with backyard birds. They are easiest to see, and you can become familiar with them fairly quickly.
  5. Practice your identification skills. Starting with a common bird species, note the most obvious visual features of the bird (color, size, shape, patterns in the plumage). These features are known as field marks and will be helpful clues to the bird's identity.
  6. Notice the bird's behavior. Many birds can be identified by their behavior--woodpeckers peck on wood, kingfishers hunt for small fish, swallows are known for their graceful flight.
  7. Listen to the bird's sounds. Bird song is a vital component to birding. Learning bird songs and sounds takes a bit of practice, but many birds make it pretty easy for us. For example, chickadees and Whip-poor-wills (among others) call out their names. In the Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America, the Resources section contains a list of tools to help you learn bird songs.
  8. Look at the bird, not the book.* When you see an unfamiliar bird, avoid the temptation to glance at the bird and grab the guide. Instead, watch the bird carefully for as long as it is present. Your field guide will be with you long after the bird is gone, so take advantage of every moment to watch an unfamiliar bird while you can.
  9. Take notes. No one can be expected to remember every field mark and description of a bird. But you can help you memory and accelerate your learning by taking note on the birds you see. These notes can be written in a small pocket notebook or even in the margins of your field guide.
  10. Venture beyond the backyard and find other bird watchers in your area. The bird watching you'll experience beyond your backyard will be enriching, especially if it leads not only to new birds but also to new birding friends. Ask a local nature center or wildlife refuge about bird clubs in your region. You state ornithological organization or natural resources division may also be helpful. Being with others who share your interest in bird watching can greatly enhance your enjoyment of this wonderful hobby.
That was straight from Bill Thompson, III's "the Young Birder's Guide to Eastern Birds of North America."


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