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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top 10 ways to be a better birder

10) Skip work to go birding. Seriously. Unless your job is to find and identify birds, it isn't helping your birding as much as going outside to look for birds.
9) Take regular birding breaks from work. OK, so you can't skip work. You still get that 15 minute break every four hours, right? Go outside, look up, and see how many birds you can see during your break.
8) Make sure you get your Bird RDA. That's a minimum of 20 species every day. If that seems like a challenge, you need to rearrange your schedule a bit. Ideally, you should get those 20 species before arriving at work. If you work the graveyard shift, that means owling (but hard to find 20 birds at night), or taking the long way home in the morning (even better).
7) Load up your iPod with bird songs and calls. Get as many birds as you can on there. If you are downloading them from CDs, you can use Audacity to strip away the human voice announcing the names of each bird, and split up the tracks so that you have just one bird per track. Then you can quickly flip to any species you want to hear, either on the run, or on your computer at home or work.
6) Take a friend birding. You never learn as much about birds as you do when you are teaching somebody else how to find and identify birds. Nothing like those "what color are the legs of a Song Sparrow?" type questions to help you realize how much you still need to learn about birds!
5) Use eBird. Keep track of all the birds you see, no matter where you are. eBird will keep track of all your state, county, and yard lists so you don't have to. Then you can go back and see all your sightings. Its way cool. Its great to click on the name of a bird in your eBird life list to see all the times you've ever seen that bird listed there!
4) Play birding games. Nothing like a big day or a big year to sharpen you up, to make you learn how to find and identify birds better and faster. Keeping a county list will force you to explore all those nooks and crannies in your area that might have birds you haven't seen yet. Go exploring. Have fun. See more birds!
3) Draw birds. Sketch them while you watch them. Take notes of their plumage and behavior. Again, nothing like a "how many colors of blue are on a Blue Jay?" type questions to get you to really look at and better appreciate even the common birds around you.
2) Have fun. The best birders are the ones that have the most fun. So do whatever it is that makes you happy. If chasing rare birds turns you on, go for it. If you just like to spend hours watching the feeder out your kitchen window, spend an extra 15 minutes doing that.
1) Turn off the computer right now and go birding! What's more fun, reading about birding or heading out to see some birds? Go now! Have fun! Be wild! Stop wasting your time on the computer! Especially if you don't even have your Bird RDA yet today!

Full disclaimer: I'm entitled to blog about birds right now because I've already got my Bird RDA and entered today's bird sightings on eBird!


Patrick B. said...

Great list. I'd add:

1. Be humble. No one is perfect at ID.
2. Go birding with someone better than you and be ok with it.

Anonymous said...

All superb points to live by. I'd also add:

Regularly read books about birds (field guides, life histories, general ornithology, ecology, etc.). This will help build up the needed mental resevoir of information to draw upon in the field.

janaemadsen said...

I would like to see your sketches of birds.

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