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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 13:04   #1
David Pedder
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Tips for woodland birding please.

I have enjoyed watching birds in a “fine weather” manner since being a kid but have only recently started to take birding seriously. I’ve bought a scope and a pair of fairly decent bins, joined the RSPB and become a member of Bird Forum! I’m also attempting to learn songs and calls from the Collins field guide and CDs (not easy but I think I’ve cracked the Chiff Chaff!)

I have noticed many BF members referring to “fieldcraft” and would be very grateful if you could give me a few tips on woodland birding. I have had several attempts but have come away having seen very little (especially when the leaves are on the trees) but judging by the singing and the calling the woods have been brimming over with birds.

Mods: Just realized perhaps I should have posted this in "Tips for New Birders" - Apologies.

Last edited by David Pedder : Wednesday 11th May 2005 at 14:17.
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 14:18   #2
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My tip would be to watch the edge of the wood thoroughly (i.e scrubby area where the wood meets open country). Here the trees are not as tall so you don't miss birds flitting about in the treetops. Also sit quietly for a long while and let the birds come to you- don't walk through the trees scaring everything away.
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 14:22   #3
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Agreed. Find a likely spot and just stay still, listening for birds calling is the best way to locate them. You probably won't need the scope either.
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 16:08   #4
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Red face

I agree that in woodlands birding by ear is the way to go. I also carry binoculars and a field guide. If I am unsure of a bird call or song I write it down and then listen to my bird CD. Of course I don't always figure everything out, but when there are other people it is a more well rounded experience. If you can find a local bird guide that will help rule out uncommon and rare birds in the area.

Happy Birding!
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 17:06   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TWM
You probably won't need the scope either.
Indeed not. I live in the woods, and I never use my scope in them!
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 17:28   #6
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Immediately after reading this thread I decided to go and try TWM's method. I have been birding for just a very short period of time, about six weeks. It has always been in the back yard watching our various feeders or in the front yard which has no feeders. The front yard is just your basic Southeastern small town. I have never tried locating birds in the woods with my binos with the intent of following one and watching its behavior.

So I went out in the back yard, picked a spot and sat still listening. I heard a bird relatively nearby and quickly spotted him. A Carolina Wren, which happens to be our state bird I believe; and in his mouth was an ant. I watched it head towards an old aluminum shed that stores our lawn mower and various other middle class American stuff (tools and tupperware mostly). I saw the bird come out of the shed and then fly off. Within a few minutes it returned, this time with a slightly squashed slug. I watched it enter the shed and saw it hop up onto one of the old shelves in the back of the shed. There amidst a plastic bag was a nest! The first one I've ever located! To say I was excited is an understatement. I didn't get too close because I'm waiting for my son Hayden to come home so that he can get a closer look. I'll likely take him outback and wait for the Wren so that he can follow it to the nest like I did!
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 17:47   #7
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In woodland you will never have so easy birding as in the water.

Walk rather quietly along the paths. Watch for movement. When you hear a bird, stand some distance away and if you cannot see it, wait until it moves between branches and you can see it.
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 17:59   #8
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all good tips everyone!

When birding in the woods and moderate tree cover, I always try to locate movement from a bird with the naked eye first, then raise my specs to get the close up view. It's also good to wear neutral colored clothing with tans and drab greens to be a little inconspicuous and blend in better with the surroundings...unless of course it's hunting season
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 19:28   #9
David Pedder
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Sincere thanks to all for your advice which I will certainly learn from and put into practice. Great news about the Carolina Wren Sn@ve. Let us know how the fledglings progress.
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 21:44   #10
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woodland birding

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Pedder
I have enjoyed watching birds in a “fine weather” manner since being a kid but have only recently started to take birding seriously. I’ve bought a scope and a pair of fairly decent bins, joined the RSPB and become a member of Bird Forum! I’m also attempting to learn songs and calls from the Collins field guide and CDs (not easy but I think I’ve cracked the Chiff Chaff!)

I have noticed many BF members referring to “fieldcraft” and would be very grateful if you could give me a few tips on woodland birding. I have had several attempts but have come away having seen very little (especially when the leaves are on the trees) but judging by the singing and the calling the woods have been brimming over with birds.

Mods: Just realized perhaps I should have posted this in "Tips for New Birders" - Apologies.
Dear David I would agree that sitting is a great way to bird. My dog and I once found a nice tree on a hillside and sat for a long time-my dog would sit as long as i did. The dog was restless and kept looking up. I finally followed his eyes and on a branch in the tree i was leaning against sat a pair of baby great horned owls. I never would have seen them if i had just been cruising thru the woods. I think bird songs are an exciting challenge. I do have to renew my warbler songs a lot each early spring. You are embarking on a great hobby. BR
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Old Wednesday 11th May 2005, 21:53   #11
Adey Baker
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My best tip would be to visit regularly if this is possible for you.

Because of the limited extent of what's in view at any one time you'll find that a 'busy' area one day may be quiet the next although the birds are not that far away.

Some birds, such as Treecreeper seem to show well for several visits in succession only to apparently disappear completely for weeks at a time!

Try to check out any individual sound that you don't recognise one bird at a time to gradually build up your knowledge and familiarity with each species - it's not just Great Tits that have a much wider range of calls than are in the books. Chaffinches, Nuthatches and Grey Squirrels(!) can have you guessing until you finally track them down!

Last edited by Adey Baker : Thursday 12th May 2005 at 10:23.
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Old Thursday 12th May 2005, 03:09   #12
AKestrel3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adey Baker
Try to check out any individual sound that you don't recognise one bird at a time to gradually build up your knowledge and familiarity with each species - it's not just Great Tits that have a much wider range of calls than are in the books. Chaffinches, Nuthatches and Grey Squirrels(!) can have you guessing until you finally track them down!
Haha many of times I have been confused by that new 'bird' I was hearing, only to discover it to be a squirrel!

But learning one song/call at a time and trying to find it the next time you go out seems to help me out. Plus being able to find and spot the bird gives me a visual memory along with the sound. Love to bird.
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Old Thursday 12th May 2005, 10:02   #13
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HI David

alternate sitting and waiting with moving quickly

top tip i often use in the rainforest, especially if looking for canopy birds or close birds in thick foliage is the thousand yard stare..... relax your eyes focus beyond the bush, tree etc and that way your eyes pick up movement in the periphery of your vision much more efficiently. It really does work very well.... in UK or wherever

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Old Thursday 12th May 2005, 17:48   #14
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While out in the woods last week I had to pass through a very dark area of very tall pine type tree's, well I thought I would not see much in here.
When I come out into the light again I had seen at least 7 or 8 treecreepers. I had only seen 1 before. I got to learn there call as well.
So even areas that you think are going to be rubbish you could end up seeing something unexpected.
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Old Friday 13th May 2005, 12:43   #15
David Pedder
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Thanks everyone. I am heading for Nagshead reserve in the Forest of Dean on Sunday and will be using all your tips and advice.

AKestrel3, Many thanks for the advice re bird song. I shall definitely try the "one song/call at a time" method.

Happy Birding!

Last edited by David Pedder : Friday 13th May 2005 at 14:34.
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Old Saturday 14th May 2005, 03:14   #16
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Here is one more for you: When choosing a spot for stationary observation, look for large dead trees in the forest. These dead trees are magnets for birds feeding on wood boring insects. They often contain cavities for nesting habitat. They are used as perches for raptors. The canopy gap also provides a window view into the upper canopy of the surrounding trees that is not otherwise visible. Lastly, the fallen limbs & branches at the base of the dead tree is great habitat for ground nesting or foraging species.

Look, SEE, & listen. With some luck, the birds will cooperate.

Enjoy!
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Old Thursday 16th June 2005, 13:53   #17
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Have you tried.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Pedder
Thanks everyone. I am heading for Nagshead reserve in the Forest of Dean on Sunday and will be using all your tips and advice.

AKestrel3, Many thanks for the advice re bird song. I shall definitely try the "one song/call at a time" method.

Happy Birding!

Hi David

Have you tried Cosmeston lakes? I saw my first Jaye there and fell in love with birds - Just a thought anyway
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Old Thursday 16th June 2005, 21:58   #18
David Pedder
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Originally Posted by soggy wales
Hi David

Have you tried Cosmeston lakes? I saw my first Jaye there and fell in love with birds - Just a thought anyway
Hi soggy! (pretty soggy in Cardiff tonight!) Yes, I have been to Cosmeston Lakes a couple of times. Super place. Nice views of Great Crested Grebe and lots of other water fowl I struggle to ID, apart from the common ones. I'm told you can see Bittern in Winter. I would love to see one.

Did you see the rats?!! hoards of the little devils, and lots of squirrels too. Jays are stunningly beautiful birds. I sometimes lucky enough to see one in the garden. One of my very favourites.

Thanks

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Old Friday 17th June 2005, 04:49   #19
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Lots of good tips here, but a few more won't hurt!
Where possible find a spot that's a little more open and where the sun's on the trees and the breeze isn't - birds will tend to be more active in such spots. Use a DVD/video to learn songs - the visual reminder can help you to remember which calls go with which birds. After a while if you don't recognise a call remember its probably Great Tit! Also keep your eye on the bird/movement and interpose your bins between your eyes and the said bird/movement; seems obvious, but many folks glance down at bins then back at bird .... Go out early rather than late. Dawn chorus rather than late AM or afternoon. Go on any organised walks (if available) or find a experienced birder to take you out,
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Old Friday 17th June 2005, 05:06   #20
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I'll second the early morning advice, even slightly pre-dawn if you can. Birds are most active and vocal the first two and last two hours of the day, but in the early morning you'll see the most in the shortest period of time.
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Old Friday 17th June 2005, 13:42   #21
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Hang around near any resource valuable to birds, such as water or a fruiting berry tree. You might find these things by chance, or by noticing a few birds all headed in a similar direction.

Rivers and streams can be good, as they often provide not only drinking and bathing but also good visibility into the trees. As someone has said already, edges make for good birding.

If there's a slope with access, I often scuttle up so I can look into the trees on more of a level, or even look down into the trees.

And, if you can see a bird or a flock moving through the trees, try going ahead of it/them slightly and let it/them move towards you – if you make a B-line for any animal it is likely to be more wary of you.
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 13:52   #22
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I'm also new to this birding lark; no pun intended! Just been out in a local wood at lunchtime & saw virtually nothing. Came home most dissapointed. Discovered this web site today; then this thread. Absolutely "bang on" as they say. I've obviously found this information extremely enlightening & I'm sure all this related correspondance will assist me greatly. Thanks to you all.
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 20:34   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Tee
I'm also new to this birding lark; no pun intended! Just been out in a local wood at lunchtime & saw virtually nothing. Came home most dissapointed. Discovered this web site today; then this thread. Absolutely "bang on" as they say. I've obviously found this information extremely enlightening & I'm sure all this related correspondance will assist me greatly. Thanks to you all.

Hi Al,

Not the ideal time of year to start birding (but at least it's warm... )

The woods are obviously in full leaf, providing plenty of cover, and many birds aren't singing or calling as much as earlier in the year, so things can seem pretty quiet.

Unbelievably enough, 'autumn' migration is starting, where lots of waders etc that breed further North in early Summer are starting to head South again, so a more productive area for seeing at least some birds would probably be a suitable wetland/coastal site, assuming that you have one close to where you are....

Good luck anyway....
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Old Wednesday 20th July 2005, 20:57   #24
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at this time of year if you are looking for woodland birds try to look near a pond, stream or lake, if the woodland as any of these,that is your best chance of good sightings
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Old Thursday 21st July 2005, 02:24   #25
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In tropical forests (and some of it should apply for woodlands as well):

1. Intersperse periods of waiting with periods of fast walking (as Tim said) to find elusive birds like Pittas, Pheasants, etc).
2. Look for fruitng trees, in particular ficus for Hornbills and Barbets.
3. Look for Army or Driver ants, they attract many birds.
4. Find a favorite bathing spot on a hot day.
5. Use all your senses.
6. Bird along roads that cut through the forest.
7. Use an Owl call.

The one problem I have with birding in rain forests is that it can be absolutely quiet for long periods, than a bird wave comes through and you don't know where to look first!
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