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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 00:10   #1
J2neuby
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How to do better birding?

Hi everyone,

I'm definitely new to this game. My "birding experience" involves walking down my road to a local pond in the early morning hours, where I generally see more turtles than birds.

How do you guys optimize your chances of having a thrilling birding experience? Admittedly, I can't tell you anything more than "that's a blue bird" and I'm a bit intimidated on starting interest in identifying birds, because I don't know how to look up "blue bird sighted near the pond next to my house."

Thanks!
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 00:47   #2
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You can only learn birding by going out. Books are fine, apps are fine. Find birds. Use an 8x42 pair of binoculars. Many are frustrated by starting with some 8x25 poor binocular.

Try to ID as best as you can. Mistakes are good, necessary.

Good luck. Find the local Audubon group.
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 01:07   #3
J2neuby
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Thanks. Appreciate that =)
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 01:29   #4
KC Foggin
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Also check with Cornell Birds and download their free Merlin App through iTunes You put the size, color and area of bird spotted and they'll come up with photo suggestions. Good luck and be careful, it can become quite addicting
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 01:30   #5
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Oh, here is the link to the App:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/merl...773457673?mt=8
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 01:35   #6
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Tero make one good point but also need to be supplemented I think: using either a book or something like an app with bird id hints, studying ahead of going out can be beneficial. The Regional Sibley id book would be one good starting point for that, but there are alternatives.

After seeing a bird, the app called Merlin (from Cornell) is supposed to be able to help. (not available for my area). Any photos you can take will help when you ask help from more experienced birders. Going out with more experienced birders will help - that is where your local Audubon or other local organizations can help.

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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 09:01   #7
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If you've got a wildlife reserve near you, go to it and make friends with the wardens, they can be really helpful.
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 11:46   #8
Julie50
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Hi

I only started in February this year and I agree with Stuart. I go to a couple of local reserves with hides. I always find the people in them more than happy to help with bird IDs especially the wardens. In a hide you also tend to get a longer look at each bird to help with your ID, which as a beginner is really useful.

People on this forum have also helped me a great deal with ID confirmation. I always have Field Guide in my rucksack - I use a Larousse, but I have had a look on Amazon and it looks like they are just for Britain and Ireland, so I can't help with a recommendation here sorry.

Good luck :)
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 12:52   #9
kitefarrago
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I think the best way of getting started with birding is to go out with people who are more experienced. A lot of what one does in birding is difficult to teach via books: For example, experienced birders do a lot based on their sense of hearing, and identifying birds becomes much more about learning shapes, behaviours, and what to expect in which habitat, than by making formal comparisons with pictures in a field guide.

So, find out whether there is a local club/group and make contact with them. Be open about the fact that you've only just discovered birding and that you'd like to learn more. Most birders are friendly and happy to pass on what they themselves have learned.

If you would like to find a way of narrowing down what to expect in your area sign up with Ebird, which will allow you to see what birds other people report from you vicinity. Then study these birds in your field guide so that you will have a better chance of recognizing them when you encounter them.

One way of becoming familiar with the more common birds is to put up bird feeders - birds that come to feeders tend to be less skittish, and will allow you more time to watch them. Over time you'll then be able to recognize them based on much shorter views because you've know their little differences.

Most importantly, don't be disheartened because you feel that you know nothing! We have all started at some point, and it's amazing how much one can improve with a bit of guidance and a bit of time spent.

Andrea
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 14:25   #10
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Use eBird or other services. Don't be afraid to bring your field guide, but don't become too dependent. Birding while doing everyday things, such as working or driving, is one way to get better. Get to know your common birds really well, so anything else will stand out. Start learning songs and calls early.
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 17:05   #11
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Well you're doing one thing right: going out in the early morning is a good idea, you'll catch birds when they're active and there aren't a lot of people/dogs/cars around to scare them away.

There are at least 16 Wildwoods in the US alone; if we knew your location we could point you to some interesting nearby spots. For example, if you're in the one in New Jersey, you are also well-placed to experience the fact that different habitats are home to different birds. Head to the beach some mornings, you'll see different birds than you would in the marshes and lagoons. (Warning though, some of the birds on the beach are very difficult to identify precisely - there are lots of look-alikes.) If you get the chance, ride a boat a few miles offshore, and you'll find different birds than you would see on the coast.

In general, if you're in the US it's worth looking at the maps on eBird.com to see the locations near you where people are seeing lots of birds, and which birds they're seeing.

One tip for new birders: move slowly. Movement will spook the birds. Walk slowly or not at all, let the birds come to you. You should be slow and quiet enough to hear the flap of a duck's wing.
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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 18:08   #12
Larry Sweetland
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One really good thing to do if you want to improve your ability to identify birds, is get practice at looking at every bird you see with a critical eye. Get used to mentally telling yourself exactly what features you're seeing, and exactly where they are on the bird. You'll be surprised how different your impression of a bird can be, compared to your description of it when you look at it carefully. Try to look at every part of the bird that's visible as you watch it, as you might not have long before it disappears. You may discover when you look at a book that you're glad that you made a mental note of, eg the colour of it's flanks or it's legs, rather than just being mezmorised by eg it's bright red head. That, and learning their vocalisations, and "jizz" are pretty much the key to identifying birds.

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Old Monday 21st August 2017, 23:34   #13
J2neuby
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Thanks all, very good input.

Located just south of Chattanooga, TN.
I think I'll try to stop being mesmerized by a bird, and instead start taking critical notes =P Good suggestion.
Also, knowing the common locals so that a more rare bird stands out is a good concept.
I appreciate all the feedback!
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Old Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 09:02   #14
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Birding Tips

Notebook and pencil. Unpopular these days but I think it's vital for a newcomer.

Seeing, writing and drawing, remembering, writing and drawing again and even seeing yourself writing and drawing all help create memory pathways in your brain, making details much easier to recall another day.

Also, start learning some of the most common calls and songs as early as possible. One at a time. Invaluable and, of course, extremely rewarding.

All the best
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Old Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 09:33   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen C View Post
Also, start learning some of the most common calls and songs as early as possible. One at a time. Invaluable and, of course, extremely rewarding.

All the best
Not sure if there's a US equivalent, but Simon Barnes wrote a book for the UK called 'How to be a better Bird-listener' (or something like that). I gave if to my wife as she has recently got interested, and is more 'sound' focussed. It explains how it is best to start around the turn of the year when only few, resident, birds sing. Get them sorted, then progress as more and more residents 'tune-up' through early spring, so when the migrants appear you know what's new and different. Get some of the commoner migrants sorted and then you can really start motoring as you will hear new species often before you see them.

It's also a real bonus for folks whose eyesight isn't great.

Mick
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Old Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 21:57   #16
Tero
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We have a free app, actually it now has Europe too, Merlin. You can play all the bird songs on it. If you can narrow down to sparrows you can play all those. Problem is, dickcissels, indigo buntings etc have to be looked at too. It is pretty much necessary to start with the visuals so you have some clue what you are looking for, as far as songs.
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Old Friday 25th August 2017, 11:06   #17
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Patience is the key for me these days. If you enjoy birding and think that you will be doing this for the rest of your life then eventually you will see plenty of different birds (depending on how far you wish to travel of course).

Over the weeks and months you will become more familiar with the common birds and this will lead to you naturally reacting with surprise to a new bird when you see or hear it.

A good guide book is essential preferably one that shows both juvenile, adult, male and female, and summer and winter plummages. However try to resist taking the book out with you, but just make mental or handwritten notes. Then, when you return home, check the book to compare with what you've seen whilst you were outside.

The best advice I would give is to just enjoy the birds that you do find and don't worry too much about the ones that you don't. Otherwise you'll find that this very relaxing hobby turns out to be not quite as relaxing as you thought it would be.

On the other hand, if you are the competitive type well....thats a whole new ball game. You better put some juice in the motor!
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Old Friday 1st September 2017, 02:16   #18
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It is very helpful when one is beginning to go on bird walks with other, more experienced birders. This might be easier in some locations than in others. Check the web site of the Chattanooga chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. They have a list of local birding sites (places where a good variety of bird species can be found and are open to the public) and a local bird list as well as time and address of the club meetings. They organize field trips to observe birds. Those trips are announced in the meetings as well as in the club newsletter which can be read at the website. Here is the website:
http://www.chattanoogatos.org
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Old Thursday 7th September 2017, 13:40   #19
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Get out of the car and use your legs.
I go birdwatching as much for the exercise and fresh air.
You'll find lots of nooks and crannies you'd miss only wandering 25 yards from the car[or sitting in it]- and see a few birds you'd otherwise miss.
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Old Thursday 7th September 2017, 13:47   #20
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Go out with more experienced folk. Most birders are eager to help. I think everyone remembers the difficulty starting out, don't be shy asking questions. I've learned, and continue to learn, much more when in the company of experienced birders.

Jack
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 16:00   #21
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Best idea for improving bird watching is recommendation direct from other bird watchers.
Follow guided bird tours.
http://www.njaudubon.org/

Many birds You can find in bird watching hot spots like Florida or Texas ( spring migration spectacle ).
In Florida maybe You can define many birds without bino. Just take a picture with mobile phone and look into Sibleys guide.
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