Saturday, April 30, 2022

Searching Everywhere For New Arrivals

It seems to me that the big spring migration wave has been more like a trickle so far. I got my share of exercise searching through Guida's Nature preserve this morning. It's a nice mix of open fields, edge habitat, and woodland trails-lots of trails. I was wandering around all over the place wondering if I covered every field and trail. In the end I found just 2 new species for the year, Magnolia Warbler and Ovenbird.

I wish that I could get a picture of all the new birds to see but some are high up in the trees bouncing around and others like this one are just plain camera shy and that can be a bitter pill to swallow!Fortunately, there are others like this female Eastern Towhee that are too busy building nests to worry about who's watching!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ways To Keep Birding Fresh Without Traveling

One of the realities of being a birder is that after a few years of active birding in your state you will have seen most of the species you are going to see. If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel then there are many new species of birds around the world. Unfortunately, this may not be an option for everyone due to a variety of reasons. 

However, there are many ways to keep your birding experiences feeling fresh without traveling. Here are a couple of examples:

Get off the beaten track: If you take the time to seek out places that require a little hiking then you can do your birding in a place that is isolated and quiet. This type of setting enhance your birding experience because you may be seeing familiar birds but in a different setting. You will be able to hear the birds better and seeing them in different backdrop can alter your visual perception in a positive way.

Sit still and get closer: Sometimes I will try to find a natural blind in an area that looks appealing to birds. I sat still on a tree stump that had a pile of brush in front of it for about 20 minutes before this young Bald Eagle came in for a landing right in front of me! Watching an awesome bird like this can be much more exciting when you can observe their every move and see details that you don't normally get to see in the wild!
Choose an overlooked local park to see some first of year birds: Instead of going to one of the warbler hotspots to seek out some first of the year warblers I chose a tiny little park  just down the road (Ravine Park in Middletown) .The entire trail here is only a 2 minute walk from end to end but I was surprised to find my first of the year Palm and Black and White Warblers here! It was much more rewarding than if I drove to a proven hotspot where i would have expected to see something good or be disappointed.

So that is just a few ways I try to keep my birding experiences fresh but I know that there are numerous variations on how you can approach birding to keep things interesting.


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

5 Things I Would Tell Myself As A New Birder

I've always enjoyed seeing birds but like many people, I was only familiar with the usual birds that show up in your yard and categorized everything else as ducks, geese and "Seagulls". At some point after I bought binoculars, the light bulb went off. Wow! there are lots of birds out there that I have never noticed before! After that, I went kind of crazy running around trying to see as many new birds as I could see! 

 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?