amount of information is being written about birds and birding,
places to see birds, and how to identify them. There are
at least seven or eight excellent field guides to bird
identification plus numerous tapes and CDs of bird songs that
sharpen your auditory identification.
To a novice
birder all this information may be overwhelming or confusing.
The following is a simple guide to finding birds for anyone just
beginning to enjoy birding. As time goes on these location
steps become second nature.
THE BIRD. This depends upon where you are birding.
It is fairly easy to see ducks swimming in ponds and lakes, egrets
and herons wading in marshy areas, shorebirds finding food on
the beach or mudflats, or hawks soaring in a thermal. Such habitats
are actually excellent places to begin birdwatching. It gives
you a chance to get the feel of your binoculars, spotting and
woodpeckers are much harder to find however, when hidden
by leaves and deep in understory.
The first step
to finding most songbirds is to listen. Whether soft chip
notes or long, melodious songs, songbirds usually give away their
presence by noise. Leaf-turning on the ground can indicate
an Eastern Towhee or Brown Thrasher; drumming and pecking announce
a woodpecker. Listening is of the
utmost importance when locating birds.
locating the bird with your eyes is an obvious goal. By
scanning the tree canopy and bushes, you can either see a bird
sitting quietly or darting from here to there searching for food.
In many cases, small birds are not seen but rather the leaves
they are in will rustle or twitch. Not so simple as sudoku or online bingo , this step often involves staring catatonically into the leaves and canopy. this step
often involves staring catatonically into the leaves and canopy.
Try to remain unfocused while staring so that movements at your
peripheral vision can be noticed. Small numbers of leaves
moving indicate a small bird, perhaps a warbler, vireo or chickadee.
Whole branches moving could mean a larger bird such as a crow
or blue jay or a even a squirrel (which should be ignored).
If the entire tree is swaying, it may be time to seek shelter.
Fall is also
another problem. Deciduous trees dropping leaves here and
there can cause severe hypertension amongst birders. Rule
of thumb: if it falls vertically, ignore it; horizontally,
THE BIRD WITH YOUR BINOCULARS. Now that you have seen
leaf movement or the bird itself, you must progress to seeing
it through your binoculars. This is no easy task for a
beginner birder. Peering through binoculars at a football
game or concert is one thing. Finding an object four inches
long, 100 feet away hidden in the crown of a tree is another.
There are many occasions that by the time you have gotten your
binoculars on the bird, it has practically built a nest, raised
its young and migrated south.
to move quickly, so first find the bird with your naked eye.
Think about where the bird is in the tree in relation to something
else. For example, in the crown of the tree, ask yourself
is the bird at twelve o'clock, on the right at three o'clock,
or on the lower left at seven o'clock? Is it at the tip
of a branch or in the middle? Try to notice something stationary
next to the bird that you can put your binoculars on first, then
move to the bird itself. For example, you might think,
"the bird is at three o'clock in that scarlet oak tree,
five feet in from the tip of the skinny, crooked branch, three
inches from the gray clump of lichens". Of course,
this also may require you to be a botanist. People who
are good at this are usually also good at pointing out and
locating birds for others.
The next step
is crucial. No matter what happens, if someone steps on
your foot, or a spider crawls on your arm, or someone passes
a donut to you, keep your eyes on the bird. The most common
mistake people make after finally finding the bird with their
naked eye is looking down at their binoculars. Don't look
down at them; they are not going away. The bird, however,
will go away. Keep your eye on the bird while bringing
your binoculars up in one quick motion. Watch the experienced
birders in the field. Most of them will walk with their
binoculars hanging close to their upper chest and their finger
on the focus knob. They walk and stand like gunslingers;
ready to shoot, bringing their binoculars up to their face, aiming
and focusing instantly.
If you don't
see the bird through your binoculars right away, hang in there.
While apparently staring up at nothing may seem a little boring,
, it will eventually appear in view (unless it flew out of the
back of the tree).
And if it still doesn't appear, you can always sneak a peek over
the top of your binoculars, without putting them down, to scan
more of the tree.
to point out here; don't take your eyes off the bird until it
flies away especially if you don't know what it is. Take
your eye off the bird while searching your field guide for its
illustration will surely lose him.
Don't even think of looking it up in the book until you have
memorized ever feather on it's little body and it has disappeared.
is supposed to be fun. You may miss a lot of birds at first.
Even the best birders miss a few once in awhile. With a
little practice, you will be finding birds easily.
Ornithologist, President Birding Adventures, Inc.
articles of interest to birders and those who love bird-watching
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