Here are 5 pieces of advice I would have told myself if I could go back to my start:
1) Pay close attention to the markings and behaviors of birds that you are already familiar with: I knew what a robin (above) was but I dismissed them at the time looking for new birds. Note the white markings around the eye and the color and shape of the bill. Notice that they may be pulling worms from a green lawn in spring but may be picking berries from trees and bushes in the winter or hanging out in swampy areas of the woods. Studying easily accessible birds like the American Robin can be helpful in improving birding skills. 2) Don't be in a hurry!: When you get bit by the birding bug you can become so excited that you are in a rush to get to the next great bird or the next hot spot. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and appreciate whatever birds are in your immediate area. If you are patient, you may even find something unexpected. Sometimes birds come to you if you stop moving around trying to find them. So move along slowly and take a break when you run into some active birds.3) There are going to be birds that are confusing: I can remember being excited about seeing a yellowlegs for the first time. I looked in the book and could see the yellow legs, overall shape, long bill, and interesting markings. But is it a greater or lesser yellowlegs? I didn't know back then and even now I have to think hard about it before I decide. In this photo I see a bill that is about 1.5 times the length of the head and more markings on the flanks than I would expect on a lesser. So I would go with the greater yellowlegs in this case.4) Don't dismiss a bird just because it strikes you as dull looking: I probably would have looked at this swallow and said yeah I think it's one of those swallow things and then moved on to something more interesting. It took me a while before I had the patience to narrow down the swallow species and figure out it was a Rough-winged Swallow.
5) Don't be in a hurry to add birds to your list unless they're rare!: I was in a big hurry to add birds to see new bird species but the reality is that you only get to see a new species for the first time once. There are only so many species of birds in your state that are seen on a regular basis so eventually you will be seeing the same species repeatedly. Why rush that first time experience? Slow down! Enjoy it! However, when a rare species comes to your state it might be the only opportunity you have to see it. I've only seen one Fork-tailed Flycatcher so I'm glad I made the effort to see it while I could!
So that's a little bit of advice that I would have given my self. I'm sure I could make a few of these lists covering the same subject. But why hurry?
Thank you for that advice. I did enjoy slowing down to watch for birds. Next time I go by the ponds where I heard something that flew off, I may just take one of those little camp stools and sit in the brush and watch for a while.
I really enjoyed watching the Canada Geese this past week. I always just passed by them not thinking that they were interesting. But they sure are.
Just like watching any of nature's creatures.
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