Monday, May 21, 2007

The Positives And Negatives Of Group Birding

I have found, there are several benefits to going on a birding field trip with a club.

  • I generally see more species on a group trip versus going it alone.

  • Social contact with people of similar interest can be enjoyable.

  • I usually learn a little something on each trip.

  • It is a good way to learn new areas.

  • Many times I've seen new species on these trips with the added benefit of having an experienced birder point out the field marks.

  • Someone often brings along a scope, and is willing to share a view-(which is nice).

There are some drawbacks to group birding. Here are a few that I've encountered.

  • A trip with too many birders can be very distracting. It's difficult to stay focused when there's too much going on.

  • When I'm with a group, I don't feel the same connection with nature as I do when I'm alone.

  • If someone finds a bird for me, I haven't had to make use of whatever birding skills I have. Sometimes, it feels like I'm turning in to a mindless birding zombie.

  • If top notch birders are on the trip, it's hard to spot any birds before they do.

  • Some times you want to take extra time to track down a particular bird and you may not be able to do this when you're with a group. You have to keep up with the group.
  • Seeing a new species found by a group is nice, but there's nothing like finding your own.

That's just a few of my thoughts about group birding. Despite the drawbacks, birding with a group is usually an enjoyable experience for me. It's really a nice benefit to have access to these trips. Birding with one or two other birders can be another nice option. You can enjoy some of the social aspects with fewer distractions than that of a large group.

I do prefer to go it alone most of the time. Birding, for me, is all about feeling a connection with the natural world. I love the feeling of being isolated, deep in the heart of a forest or field. Varying between the three choices helps to keep things interesting.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


Anonymous said...

Great points! I like birding with groups but often the group is WAY to big (anything over 10 people is too many). I do like it when someone brings a scope (it is hard to carry a scope, camera, bins, bag, etc. so it lightens my load).

It feels a lot better when you find the bird yourself. I bird with my sister a lot (the other half of the Birdfreak Team) and that is all right because we work well together. But still yet, sometimes my best moments are alone deep in the woods with nothing but me and the birds!

Larry said...

Great comments-I've been unable to comment on your blog because your spam filter is screening me out.

Patrice said...

I'm with you, Larry. I like to connect with the natural world too, and it's hard to do with a group of people. I like to listen to the wind and plants and birds, to breathe deep. That rejuvenation is what helps me return to the oftentimes crazy and fast-paced world I live in. Thoreau had the right idea, I think.

Anonymous said...

As you can tell, I enjoy both groups and being by myself! But, I do enjoy going on bird trips with people!

Larry said...

Patrice-Maybe I should try reading Thoreau on my vacation.-definitely need to get back to basics in this fast-paced world.

Tom-I can definitely tell that you like nature no matter who is or isn't around.

Larry said...

Patrice-Maybe I should try reading Thoreau on my vacation.-definitely need to get back to basics in this fast-paced world.

Tom-I can definitely tell that you like nature no matter who is or isn't around.

RuthieJ said...

I almost always go birding by myself--mainly because my schedule doesn't usually coincide with scheduled birding trips. I have gone with 2 other friends who are experienced birders and really know their waterfowl, so I've learned a lot birding with them. I kind of an oddball anyway, so birding by myself works best for me!

Mary said...

Larry, I'm new at "birding" and haven't been with a group yet, but I understand what you are saying. I love being alone in the woods like I love walking alone with my Ipod. I'd rather not talk too much while I'm stalking a new bird sound.

I guess there are benefits being with experienced birders, though. The networking and learning aspect. Then, when it's done, you can take a walk by yourself, right?

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I've done 5 group birding trips and enjoyed all of them- I am a pretty sociable person with strangers! I truely enjoy birding by myself too though, for all the reasons you listed. For me birding is never singly about the birds. It's also about the air and the sounds and the silence and the plantlife and...

Jayne said...

OK Larry, now I am really curious as to how much I'll enjoy or not enjoy an I am going to my first OS meeting in June, so I'll stick my toes in the water and see how the experience is for me. I suppose I should start by venturing out of my yard alone and see what I can see and then see how that compares to being with a group. I do appreciate your pros and cons for perspective.

Betsy True said...

As a fairly new birder, I've found both are necessary. By birding with a group, I've seen birds I would never have picked out by myself (all those eyes looking in different directions!) plus, as I'm not very good at birding by ear, I've learned to associate a song with a bird by birding with more experienced birders. At the same time, I try to go by myself, so that I can test and refine my newly acquired skills without some one helping me.

The main downside for me when birding with a group is that there is a tendancy, once a bird is ID'd, to lower the glasses and move on to the next bird. But, when birding alone, I tend to study the bird a lot lo9nger out of necessity, which helps make me a better birder.

Cathy said...

Larry, this is a great post. The above responses demonstrate that this is no small issue - this question of how we want to experience our passion for nature and birding and our need and enjoyment of others, and how to mange the inevitable chaffing between the two.

I think we probably make compromises as we do in so many facets of our lives. We're lucky that we can drift between the three styles you've outlined.

Patrick B. said...

I have a few views on this. As a "talker", I like to bird with a small group or at least one other person. I get bored sometimes when I bird alone. At the same time, I feel like you in that I've had people show me so many lifers since I primarily birded in groups my first few years of birding. There's still an excitement there, but it's a different type of excitement than when you're alone.

On the flip side of that, when you're with a group and you see a bird that is a lifer for a large portion of the group, that can be a really fun experience.

For a beginning birder, I think group trips are indispensable for just learning the tricks of the trade.

Larry said...

Mary and Jayne-I agree with Patrick when he says that if you are new to birding,these trips will teach you an awful lot.-I think trips are great when you are starting out.-I will always take part in some of the trips.

Betsy-You make a good point about having a tendency to put the binoculars down and moving on to the next bird in a group.-that does happen some times.

Cathy-Nice comments-you always bring a different perspective.

Patrick-I can understand about being bored at times-Although i"m never bored-I do like the company of other birders some times.
everyone-thanks for the comments-Y'all gave some really good input on the topic!

John L. Trapp said...

Call me a nonconformist, but I prefer to be alone with my thoughts when I go birding. The big advantage to birding in (small) groups is the camraderie and the knowledge that you will always pick up useful tips from others.

Anonymous said...

I do a lot of my birding alone for many of the reasons already mentioned. If I'm birding in a group I prefer a group of no more than 4 people. After that it seems the group starts to lose focus. I really enjoy birding with my son Peter.

Larry said...

Vern-That's nice that your son has an interest in birding as well.-I'm going to do some birding with my sister this weekend for the first time.-
I used to bird with my other sister.
John-thanks for stopping by my blog.-I check your blog all the time and use it as a rescource to find new blogs as well.