When I read daily bird reports or listings on E-bird it isn't the reports of rare birds from the well-known birding hotspots that catch my attention (unless it's a species that I specifically want to see). I'm most drawn to reports of interesting bird sightings from obscure places. People who make a habit out of looking for birds in unestablished places are what I call "birding explorers". I'm not referring to birders who take trips to places like South America. I'm talking about those who like to explore new places within driving distance of their home.
Here are 10 thoughts on what it takes to be a birding explorer:
1)Research:There are many choices on how you can go about searching for new places to check out. Here are a few ideas:
- Town by town google searches for trails, nature preserves, and land trusts.
- Getting close up views of land areas using programs like google earth keying in on interesting habitat.
- Taking out books about hiking places from the library.
- Asking local hike clubs about places you may not know about.
- Revisit some of those popular hotspots but try searching areas that you may have overlooked in previous visits.
2)Curiosity: In order to have the drive to try new places you need to have a sense of curiosity as to what this new place might be like.
3)Imagination: When I went hiking as a kid my imagined coming across all sorts of things once I started hiking a new trail-bears, American Indians, gold-anything was possible in my book! I don't have the same sort of imagination now but I still dream about finding a rare or unexpected bird.
4)Spontaneity: Sometimes I come across an unfamiliar trail during my travels that might not even be marked in some cases. Once in a while I just hop on the trail and see where it leads.
5)Caution:Naturally you don't want to end up lost or injured so you do need take proper precautions-cell phone, water, and a brightly colored orange vest if your in a hunting area.
6)Faith: It's important to believe that you're going to find something worthwhile or you may become discouraged before you even start.
I thought this hidden swamp looked promising but I didn't see much of anything there at first. On the way back out I stopped again and the place was alive with birds like
Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Wood Ducks, waxwings, Brown Creepers, vireos, swallows, warblers, and flycatchers. Birds don't always reveal themselves at first glance. It pays to be patient sometimes.
8)Flexible Expectations: You're not always going to find that Ivory-billed Woodpecker you're looking for.You might have to settle for cool butterflies, a deer sighting or maybe just a plain old House Wren. Every circumstance is different and you have to appreciate the hand you're dealt.
9)Resilience: Sometimes you might feel like your efforts were totally unproductive. You have to shake it off and believe that next time will be different.
10)Commitment: It's easy to fall back into the same old routine so it takes a commitment if you are serious about trying new places.
It may be easier to stick with places that you already know but it is more rewarding to find a hidden gem that you never knew existed.