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Requesting material for 'Tips for New Birders' post


Charlie Spencer
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30 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

Don't forget to look behind you, too. We tend to focus on what is in front of us, but it's worth stopping and turning to look behind yourself now and then. 

And up!  The sky above you, above mountain ridges, etc.  I think some people get caught up in looking for the little birds in the bushes and trees.

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Join ebird.

Join Whatbird.

Join your local Audubon Society or birding group.  Meetings & birding sessions might be virtual or socially-distanced for now, but, eventually, we will "go live" again.  Many of these organizations offer free introductory birding courses.  I've also noted several local birders on ebird whose profile includes an open invitation to any and all to email them and "go birding!".  A testament to their love of the pursuit and willingness to help the new convert. 

Go to your local birdfest.  Some of the events are free and open to the public. 

One I just learned today:  If a 2 year-old is included in your birding party, you will have low numbers.

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4 minutes ago, floraphile said:

Also--be careful not to look through you binoculars or camera lens pointed at the sun. 

Seriously. It hurts. I've followed pipits above me through bins before, and they flew in front of the sun, and I didn't realize what they were doing until too late. Had a stripe through my vision for a while. Never again...

Edited by Avery
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4 minutes ago, Avery said:

Seriously. It hurts. I've followed pipits above me through bins before, and they flew in front of the sun, and I didn't realize what they were doing until too late. Had a stripe through my vision for a while. Never again...

Mine is definitely the voice of experience.   I didn't even think about it, much like you describe, I was just so excited to have an American Kestrel alight close enough for me to photograph without zooming.

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9 minutes ago, Avery said:

Seriously. It hurts. I've followed pipits above me through bins before, and they flew in front of the sun, and I didn't realize what they were doing until too late. Had a stripe through my vision for a while. Never again...

It only takes once, doesn't it?!

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  • 4 weeks later...
16 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I have to remember this thread, and to incorporate some of this into the long-planned 'Tips for New Birders' pinned post.  There's some good stuff here.

Thread that evolved into a discussion of how to use ebird filter (?) as checklist to help with bird ID, how to use Merlin for same purpose.

Edited by PaulK
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Another point: keep in mind where the sun is, and where it will be. If possible plan your route so the sun is behind you rather than in front so you see the bird, not the silhouette. Especially important if trying to take pictures.

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25 minutes ago, PaulK said:

Another point: keep in mind where the sun is, and where it will be. If possible plan your route so the sun is behind you rather than in front so you see the bird, not the silhouette. Especially important if trying to take pictures.

Also, keeping track of the sun while watching birds overhead is vitally important if you don’t want to blind yourself. 

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24 minutes ago, PaulK said:

Another point: keep in mind where the sun is, and where it will be. If possible plan your route so the sun is behind you rather than in front so you see the bird, not the silhouette. Especially important if trying to take pictures.

If you see a shadow, the bird is between its shadow on the ground and the sun in the sky.  If the shadow is very close to you, the bird is on line between you and the sun, so don't bother looking for it in the glare.  Track the shadow for a couple of seconds until the bird is off line, then look for it.

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1 minute ago, Charlie Spencer said:

If you see a shadow, the bird is between its shadow on the ground and the sun in the sky.  If the shadow is very close to you, the bird is on line between you and the sun, so don't bother looking for it in the glare.  Track the shadow for a couple of seconds until the bird is off line, then look for it.

That's FANTASTIC advice

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  • 1 month later...
On 2/19/2021 at 12:15 PM, Charlie Spencer said:

Get a field guide - Sibley, NatGeo.

And once you have it, READ IT. Don't just look at the pictures. Read the Intro material, then read it again. Go birding. Read it again. Learn the parts of birds as pointed out in the Intro material. Go birding -- with the guide in hand -- and try to find the various bird parts indicated in the Intro material on some bird that does not move around a lot (American Robin often works very well).

Look at the maps. Find the species that are mapped as occurring in your area regularly. Concentrate your study of the field guide on those species as, for the most part, you will NOT see species that are out of range (even if they're really pretty and you really want to see them).

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6 minutes ago, Tony Leukering said:

And once you have it, READ IT. Don't just look at the pictures. Read the Intro material, then read it again. Go birding. Read it again. Learn the parts of birds as pointed out in the Intro material. Go birding -- with the guide in hand -- and try to find the various bird parts indicated in the Intro material on some bird that does not move around a lot (American Robin often works very well).

Look at the maps. Find the species that are mapped as occurring in your area regularly. Concentrate your study of the field guide on those species as, for the most part, you will NOT see species that are out of range (even if they're really pretty and you really want to see them).

I swear I'll get around to consolidating all this material sometime this year

In the meantime, does anyone think it's worth recommending a state or regional guide to very new beginners, instead of an 'East / West' one?  I know the formats vary widely, and the new birder won't gain the skills to use a 'real' guide effectively.  Still, they strike me as a better way to start learning the local birds.  There's no confusion over birds the 'newbie' won't be seeing, and the smaller number of birds may be less intimidating.

Thoughts?  And can 'newbie' birders be called 'nestlings' or 'fledglings'?  Note that I am NOT asking if they qualify as 'juveniles' or 'immatures'.

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USE MORE THAN ONE CHARACTER TO MAKE AN IDENTIFICATION. I have seen multiple observers identify Lesser Scaup as Blue-winged Teal... because Blue-winged Teal was the first species in the guide that has a significant patch of white between the bill and the eye.

Finally (after which I'll step down off this old soapbox), believe the field guide (if it's a good one). One is unlikely to run across an odd-plumaged bird on any given day. If the the bird doesn't match the illustration, look farther into the field guide.

Edited by Tony Leukering
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