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!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Laptop Lets Me Blog Outdoors

   I've had my desktop computer since 2003. That's longer than I've been birding or blogging. I've been thinking for a while that it would be nice to be able to have a laptop so that I could use my computer outdoors but I thought that it would be a luxury, not a necessity. Over the past year I started having problems with uploading photos and video so I finally gave in and bought a laptop. There's been some great back to school deals on them.  Everything has been so much easier with windows 7, a new processor, and plenty of ram. things just work automatically. I don't have to e-mail requests for outdated hotfixes any more.
No longer am I confined to a desk in the living room, I can now bring my laptop outdoors where I can take part in important meeting like this recent grackle convention in my backyard.
  video   
                                        click to play

Monday, August 8, 2011

August Is Prime Time For Helen Carlson Bog

I make frequent trips to The Helen Carlson Sanctuary throughout the year but the bog is teeming with life in August.
There is an excellent metal viewing platform which provides great views of the surrounding area. Butterflies like this Silver-spotted Skipper land on the plants and flowers near the edge of the platform-( click on butterfly photo for more detail ).
I caught  this Muscovy-type Duck hanging out on the lower deck. I believe it might be someone's pet duck but this one seems to prefer spending at the bog. From what I've read, they eat lots of mosquitoes. Strange thing is, I rarely have a mosquito land on me while I'm sitting on the viewing platform.
  The Green Herons are really active there this time of year. They can often be heard communicating with each other and with a little patience, you can usually get a good view of one. There are a fair amount of birds to be seen or heard at the bog. I counted 35 species seen or heard during my last visit. My favorite sightings were of a Scarlet Tanager along the wooded edge, an Osprey flyover and watching an Eastern Kingbird eat a dragonfly. The kingbird was trying to swallow the dragonfly for several minutes until it was chased away by an envious Eastern Phoebe.
There is plenty to see and hear at the Helen Carlson Sanctuary if you are patient. I bring my camera binoculars, spotting scope and kick back in a chair waiting for nature to reveal itself to me. It's a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours on a lazy summer day.


If  you're planning a visit to this bog: Bring waterproof boots (path to platform tends to flood)  and a scope if  you have one-(great spot to scan distant trees for bird). The direction of  the sunlight  is best in the late afternoon but early morning is okay too.