Saturday, August 27, 2011

10 Things A New Birder Isn't Required To Do

  Birdwatching was once seen as a hobby that was intended mainly for nerds. In recent years the image of birding has changed and is now a popular pastime that appeals to a wide variety of people. According to US fish and Wildlife, it is now the number 1 sport in America. There are so many tools available for someone who is interested in getting started in birding these days: outstanding optics, a wide selection of field guides, birdjam, e-bird, bird clubs that offer field trips-and the list goes on. Most new birders are impressed by all this but there are some that are intimidated by this modern day version of birding. They just want to go out and see some cool looking birds.

    Some beginners are reluctant to go on a field trip because they feel that their birding skills aren't good enough. I've talked to people on field trips that don't become more involved with the birding community because they are concerned they might be expected to  take notes, keep lists of species seen, chase rare birds, or enter sightings on e-bird. 

    If you talk to someone who is really into birding then you might get the impression that there is a specific way to go about birdwatching  but the truth is you can watch birds in any manner you please. 

   There is plenty of information about how to get started with birding-just google something like: How to get started with birding . 
 Instead of making a how to get started in birding list I decided on this list instead:

10 things a new birder isn't required to do:

1) You don't have to call yourself a birder: Birder and birdwatcher mean basically the same thing. If you go to different places trying to find and identify birds you can use either term or make up your own.
2) You don't have to buy expensive binoculars: It's okay to buy a pair of  7x35 binoculars in a  department store-just try them out in the parking lot after you buy them.That way you can return them right away if they don't work for you. Just make sure you don't take them birding in the rain or swim with them since they probably aren't waterproof.
3) You don't need to be good at identifying birds to attend a field trip: There are trips that are specifically offered for beginning birders but many trips in bird clubs are open to anyone. If you're not sure just contact the leader and ask them.
4) You don't need to buy a spotting scope: It isn't necessary to spend additional money to get a spotting scope unless you want to. Binoculars will do the job in most circumstances and other birders will often let you have a look at a bird through their scope.
5) You don't have to force yourself to learn the song of every species of bird: You can start by learning the songs of birds you hear most often and then learn the others when you're ready.
6) You don't have to enter your sightings on e-bird: E-bird is a great tool that a lot of birders are using these days but it's by no means a requirement.
7) You don't need to keep lists of birds you see: Many birders keep lists of birds they see but not all of them do. Keep lists if you want to but you're not in danger of losing your birder's license if you decide not to.
8) You don't have to track down rare birds that have been reported: You may hear about rare birds being reported around the state. Some birders follow reports about these birds and go see them because they want to see them or add them to their list. Some birders chase rare birds frequently, some occasionally, and some not at all.
9) There is no time table to learn how to identify species of birds that you find difficult: If you have difficulty learning to identify  certain types of birds like shorebirds or sparrows there's no need to be in a rush. Learn at a pace that's comfortable for you.
10) You don't need to follow my advice by reading this list: My point is that people enjoy watching birds in many different ways. Not everyone is a serious birder that follows a specific sets of rules.  Take time to learn about all the great things that birding has to offer and take advantage of the ideas that interest you.

As for me, I appreciate that there is access to so many great resources for birders these days. I may not always take advantage of them but it's nice to know they're available when you need them.

Hurricane Irene is on it's way to Connecticut-let's hope for the best!


Unknown said...

Blasphemy! ;-)

There are a few birders that come across as judgmental and that their form of birding is the only correct way of birding.

I love the Kenn Kaufman quote: “There is no ‘wrong way’ to go birding. Birding is something that we do for enjoyment — so, if you enjoy it, you’re a good birder. If you enjoy it a lot, you’re a great birder.”

Here is my quote on birding: "I claim the privilege of birding/birdwatching according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow all people the same privilege; let them bird when, where, and however they may."

Gaelyn said...

I like to watch the birds and learn new ones when able. That's it. I also like to learn new flowers, trees, rocks.......

Larry said...

If you're a new birder things can feel judgemental even if they weren't meant to be. Birding Is Fun-Thanks for the Blasphemy! ;-)-I like that. Great quotes by Kaufman and you!

Gaelyn-There are lots of people who have your approach but I think hardcore birders stand out more in the crowd.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I love your list! There is nothing exclusive about birding. (or, at least there shouldn't be)

Larry said...

Lynne-Thanks-I agree. Sometimes there seems to be some misundrstanding about that.

Chris said...

Excellent post Larry and I hope irene will not affect you too much! All the best!

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, well written and well said. Though you know I am a consummate lister, sometimes I just want to enjoy the birds for being! And believe it or not, sometimes even I get intimidated by field trips and people I perceive of as better birders than me. I know I still have so much to learn and I get frustrated when I can't I.D. a bird. It makes me feel like a novice and I want to be good at it. Thanks for this reminder to take it slow and just enjoy the birds!

I am slowly learning my gulls. The Bonaparte's was easy once someone pointed out the white outer primaries. Besides, it was so much smaller than the other gulls on the beach and it had black legs and a black bill, nothing like the Ring-bills, Herring or Great-black-backed. I had to separate it from laughing gull though and once I looked at my photos and the birds guides it was easy to distinguish. Still, with all their different plumages and stuff I know I have a long way to go before I master them, IF I ever do.

Kathie Brown said...

Oh, BTW, are you doing okay with the aftermath of this storm? MY family in CT is still without power.

Larry said...

Chris-thanks-Irene wasn't too bad-lost power for a couple of days but some are still without power. Vermont got it really bad.

Kathiebirds-This is not about what birders shouldn't do-just saying do what you like and don't do what you don't like. I was trying to get better for a while but now I just try to enjoy myself and let the learning come in bits and pieces.-Some family still without power but we do have it in our house.

dguzman said...

Hear, hear! Great list, Larry. I can't tell you how many times I've had to remind myself to ease up on myself; I'll never learn all those warbler songs and chip notes and calls, and so what!? I'll probably never be able to tell the difference between many sandpipers, but I still love them!

Thanks for this list!

Dostoy said...

This reminds me of how I used to feel about Classical music. The field was so intimidating and the people I knew who liked Classical music were such snobs about it.

Fortunately in my mid-30's I made friends with someone who wasn't a snob about it. He would play CDs in the background and I found myself really loving the stuff.

Even now, I've never studied Classical music (or any music), I can't play a single note, I can't even sing. But I listen to hours and hours of Classical music simply because I love it.

And that's also what you're saying about birding. Don't be intimidated. Do it because you love it. And don't worry about how much of an "expert" you are.